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Deception by B.J. Henry
From: bjhenry@delphi.com
Newsgroups: alt.startrek.creative
Subject: DECEPTIONS (TNG/BSG crossover - sequel to DARK DAWN)
Date: Sun, 19 Jun 94 20:04:12 -0500

                           _DECEPTIONS_

NOTICE: THIS STORY MAY BE DISTRIBUTED FREE OF CHARGE BUT
MUST NOT BE SOLD OR EXCHANGED FOR FINANCIAL RETURN. THE
NOTICE FOLLOWING THE SYNOPSIS AND DEDICATION MUST
ACCOMPANY THIS STORY, IF DISTRIBUTED.

AUTHOR: B.J. Henry

_Synopsis_

During the first Federation Membership Conference for the refugee
Colonists, held on the planet Pacifica, two Chief Negotiators are
mysteriously killed while on board the Enterprise. Later, others
are found dead and a spate of unusual malfunctions plague the ship,
while the Conference attendees and the crews of both the U.S.S.
Enterprise and the Battlestar Galactica share similar, horrifying
nightmares.

Now the Captains and crews of both flagships must work together to
solve the murders, discover the secrets behind an unusual Betazoid
Ambassador, and come face to face with what could be the greatest
threat that the galaxy has ever encountered... an evil presence that
could ultimately lead the Federation and the Colonial Fleet to war.

_Dedication_

Here is the long-awaited sequel to my first story "Dark Dawn".  I
must say that I was incredibly surprised at the overwhelmingly
positive feedback that I got from readers regarding that first
story!  So that put the pressure (grin grin) on me to bang out the
sequel AND (hopefully) make it worth the read!  It took me 6 months
to do it!

When I originally wrote "Dark Dawn", I expected that I could stretch
the story out into a trilogy of sorts, as I firmly believe that if such an
interaction between these two universes WERE to really occur
in fiction-land, it couldn't be wrapped up in a single, simple story.
Thus, in the typical "A-B-A" format, I present the 2nd of 3 stories
involving the cross-over between the characters of "Battlestar
Galactica" and "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Being the "middle" story, I hope that there is enough transition from
the first story and enough to lead to the "finale" story, tentatively
titled "Prophets of Kobol".  "Deceptions" is somewhat "darker" in
tone than "Dark Dawn", as is true of many "B"-pattern offerings.
Expect the final "A" story to be a "rip-roaring" conclusion to the
trilogy!

If you're curious, about why "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and
"Battlestar Galactica?" I will reiterate what I wrote in my dedication
for "Dark Dawn":

"I've been an avid fan of both shows!  After watching all the episodes
of each show, multiple times, I began to see some similarities and
contrasts between the characters.  I also saw personality traits that
I thought would be interesting to explore and I envisioned dialog that
could be exchanged, all to bring out some unique but familiar
perspectives to these fictional people."

And so, since we have now come to the end of the run of "Star Trek:
The Next Generation", I wish to dedicate this story to all the TNG
fans out there around the world.

In memory of ST:TNG  * 9/87 - 5/94 *
"All Good Things..." Stardate: 47988.1
And in anticipation of "Star Trek:Generations" 11/94.

Keep on Trekkin'!

B.J. Henry, 6/14/94
A/K/A Dax.
Technobabble Lover.
GDAPN!/BSEB/MORN!
bjhenry@delphi.com


                              _ DECEPTIONS_

                              by B.J. Henry

                              P R O L O G U E


    He carefully embraced the instrument of his salvation, intermittently
turning it over in his hands, as he rocked back and forth, back and forth.
    "Soon, soon.   Patience...  After this... no... more...no... more...
no... more..." he chanted to himself, with eyes closed and beads of
moisture beginning to form on his forehead.
    He suddenly shook his head, cleared all thoughts from his mind,
meticulously placed the Gemonite blade into its velvet case, and slid it
back into its hiding place.  He then pulled the coverlet over his body and
immediately fell into a restless slumber.
    A figure stepped out of the shadows in the man's cabin aboard the
Battlestar Galactica, with eyes glowing red, and an angry hot breath
escaping through his lips.  It directed it's thoughts to the man who lay
tossing and turning on the bed.
    "You WILL make them ALL come to me."
    "Come...? To... you...?  No!... no more... no... more..." the
sleeping man mumbled.
    "You WILL do it!"
    "Will... do... it..."
    The figure then stepped back into the shadow and became one with it.

                          --o--

Captain's Log.  Stardate: 47344.2

"The Enterprise has arrived in the area near Proxima Centauri, where we
first encountered the Battlestar Galactica and the Colonial Fleet.  We are
here to transport a number of their delegates and military Officers to a
scheduled Federation membership conference to be held shortly on the
planet Pacifica.

It is hoped that by the conclusion of this conference, the Federation will
not only vote positively to grant full membership status to the Colonial
refugees, but will begin to secure certain trade and treaty agreements
with their people."

                          --o--

Adama's Journal:

"We greatly anticipate the arrival of the Federation starship Enterprise, a
ship commanded by a man for whom we owe a great debt.  His arrival will
signal to us, the beginning of a new era for our people.  An era where we
will see the fulfillment of the prophesy that we should meet and join
together with the lost Thirteenth Tribe, Humans who now reside on the
planet Earth.

Our people are preparing to vote to choose what they wish to do with
their lives, and I expect that most will elect to travel to Earth, thus
bringing us full circle with our brethren.  The sooner the better, as
many have grown restless at the delay in settling them.  I expect
this issue to be resolved during the membership conference that the
Council and I will attend, to be held on a planet in this area of space,
known as 'Pacifica'.  How prophetic that we begin our process of
healing on a planet whose name is identical to that of the Galactica's
sister ship, one of eleven to perish during our escape from the Cylons.
I await the start of this historic event with a happy heart."


                          C H A P T E R

                              I


    She was a ship of war, proudly bearing the scars of her valor.
She was built like a mighty tank, a Trojan horse with armor that could
withstand the most intense laser bolts that a Cylon Baseship could hurl
at her.  Her parts and personnel worked together like a well-oiled machine,
her surfaces were exposed and unadorned, for practicality and ease of
access.  But she could move swiftly and smoothly through the emptiness
of space, unencumbered by her bulk, like a great whale might move
through the depths of a mighty ocean.  Her twin landing bays beckoned
the weary Warrior to her cozy lair, a welcome site after a battle.  Her
Bridge was sparse and mechanical but functional, providing it's occupants
with a sweeping view of what lay ahead.  Capable of light speed, this
massive vessel, the Battlestar Galactica, was all that survives as the pride
and joy of the Colonial Fleet.
    Nearby, providing a unique contrast, was another ship, a ship of
peace.  Her graceful curves belying the powerful thrust that her twin
engines could supply.  Equipped with the latest technology, she could
battle with the best, while deceptively disguised as just another, benign
research and exploratory vessel.  Like a swan on a gentle lake, she
could glide at impulse power, barely rippling the fabric of space.  Yet at
the first sign of danger, she could propel herself forward, head first, with
the aerodynamic elegance of a sleek cat in pursuit of prey.  Her Bridge
was a model of efficiency, carefully hidden beneath smooth black panels,
that resembled more a Cubist's aesthetic vision of decor rather than a
starship's computer access terminals.  As the flagship of the Federation,
the U.S.S. Enterprise was also the pride and joy of Star Fleet, one of only
a few Galaxy class vessels in service.  The two ships sat side by side in
contrast and in complement, as their two Commanders sat separately,
pondering over their duties in their respective offices.  These men could
themselves provide an observer with some insight into their differences
and similarities.
    The Commander of the Battlestar Galactica was a seasoned fighter,
a man who had seen many battles in his day.  He was a family man and
a religious man.  His cosmopolitan roots, coupled with a touch of formality,
endowed him with a commanding presence that made others stand up
and take notice.  A man who valued diplomacy, but who would not shy
away from suitable military might when needed.  His presence was like
that of a great grizzly bear, with burning eyes that could induce fear and
respect, but that could also transform at a moment's notice, into those
of a child's cuddly teddy bear of old.
    The Captain of the Enterprise, wed only to his ship, was a
seasoned explorer and a well respected humanist at heart.  Intensely
private, his provincial upbringing was meticulously guarded behind a rigid
formality and carefully polished sophistication.  He also knew the value of
diplomacy when needed, yet preferred to reason rather than fight.  He
possessed a charm and intensity that could make the strong quiver and
the infatuated, swoon.  And so these two men came together again, to
work out the details of their next assignments.

    "Captain, I am very glad to see you again.  We're fortunate that your
superiors have permitted you to at least participate, if only for a short time,
in our negotiations," Adama noted.
    "The feeling is mutual Commander.  We're here to offer our services.
Star Fleet realized that due to the number of delegates that you plan on
sending, my ship was the largest available to accommodate them.  Of
course, we also have the means to get you to the Conference site on
Pacifica in a timely fashion, seeing that your fastest ships are only
capable of light speed, equivalent to our warp one," Picard replied.
    "Yes, our scientists are still fascinated by this technology that you
call `warp speed'.  If only we had access to such technology."
    "Perhaps the Federation will agree to work with you to develop such
a capability, particularly since you were well on your way to discovering it
on your own."
    "I certainly hope so Captain.  It would surely reduce our almost
infinite universe down to a more manageable size," Adama chuckled.
    "So, when will your people be ready to be underway?" Picard asked.
    "Well, very soon I expect.  Presently, we are preparing to hold the
final vote on our people's wishes, specifically, whether we should choose
to formally apply for Federation membership or not."
    "And how do you feel the vote will go?"
    "That, I do not know.  Most of our people however, expressed much
excitement when they were shown the pictures of Earth, so I expect that
most will agree to settle there.  Unfortunately, many of our political types
have openly voiced their reservations, and I believe they seem to prefer
the status quo."
    "I see.  Well, keep me informed on your status and then we can
prepare to be on our way."
    "I will Captain and again, I thank you for your cooperation and
understanding."
    "You are most welcome, and to end on a more positive note, I just
wanted to say that I believe that you and your people will enjoy the beauty
of Pacifica.  If anything, it should provide you with a much needed vacation
of sorts."
    "I'm looking forward to arriving there."
    "Very good.  Picard out."

                          --o--

    The Officer's Club aboard the Battlestar Galactica was nearly empty
but for a few Warriors.  The small viewscreen built into the wall was
droning incessantly with talk show interviews and audience participation
programs.  Lieutenants Boomer, Jolly and Greenbean sat around a table
near the viewscreen, trading war stories, insults, and exaggerated
explanations of their latest escapades.
    The interview program that was currently being broadcast by the
Inter-Fleet Broadcasting, or more commonly known as the "IFB," abruptly
ended and segued to a commercial.  Boomer casually looked up at the
screen and watched in fascination.
    "These are pictures of Earth, the jewel of the United Federation of
Planets.  Here, you can experience an almost infinite variety of individuals,
tastes and styles, with technology designed to free you from the stresses
of everyday life.  A cashless society, where your every desire can be
fulfilled."  The images of Earth suddenly switched to pictures of different
Star Fleet vessels and their crews.
    The narrator continued, "Protected by Star Fleet and home to the
headquarters," shift to photo of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge,
"of the Federation, the planet Earth can provide you and your family with
security and comfort that will rival that of your former Colony."  Shift to a
textual image of a ballot.
    "When the time comes, vote YES for your Colony to join the
Federation.  This message was sponsored by the 'Citizens for Federation
Membership'."  Fade to black.
    "Boy," Boomer exclaimed, "what a sell job.  I'm telling you, they
make Earth look like the only planet in the universe."
    "Yeah well have you seen the commercial that trashes Earth?" Jolly
remarked with a chuckle.
    "No, I think I missed that one.  Considering how many of these
things they've run, I'm surprised I haven't seen it," Boomer replied.
    "Well those ads are NOTHING compared to the one by that group
who wants to go back," Greenbean added.
    "Huh?  What group?  Go back where?" Jolly exclaimed.
    "Back to the Colonies," Greenbean responded.
    "Who the hell wants to go back there?" Jolly continued.
    "Believe it or not, a lot of people," said Greenbean.
    "And how do they propose to do that?" Boomer interjected.
    "Oh, I heard that they want to join up with some mercenaries and
ex-Star Fleet types, assemble an armada, and head back through the
void."
    "That's crazy.  They'd be slaughtered," Boomer replied.
    "Not only slaughtered, but they'd end up drawing the whole damn
Cylon Empire back here," Jolly added.
    "Speaking of Cylons, whatever happened to Baltar?  I know he
turned tail and ran as usual, but have they tracked him?" Greenbean
asked.
    "Seems Baltar ran into a lucky break," Boomer began.  "I heard
that the scanner frequencies on his Baseship somehow triggered the
entrance to a previously unknown passageway or shortcut to the border
of Federation space.  In fact, the Star Fleet folks are busy trying to
reproduce those frequencies to open the passage up again.  They're
mighty worried that this wormhole is being used covertly by their
enemies."
    "Passageway, huh?  You mean after all these yahrens, with all
the technology that these people have and they're just now finding
shortcuts??" Jolly quipped.
    "Seems they spent most of their time perfecting faster means of
travel," Boomer said, after taking a swallow of his ale.
    "Yeah, like somehow, miraculously, going faster than light speed,"
Greenbean added sarcastically.
    "Actually, Commander Data, the Second Officer aboard the
Enterprise, attempted to explain that to me and he claims that in reality,
their ships are NOT going faster than light.  He said something about
their engines being able to generate a `warp field' or `warp bubble' or
something like that.  I don't know.  All I care about is whether we can
get there from here in one piece!" Boomer remarked.
    "That's DEFINITELY the most important part, especially when you
look at the way YOU fly a Viper, Boom Boom," Lt. Greenbean teased.
    "Hey hold on guys.  Look," Jolly interrupted, "there's the ad."
    On the viewscreen was a young, brown-haired man, obviously from
the planet Taurus, standing in front of a row of the Twelve Colonial flags.
He looked straight at the camera while calmly but firmly saying, "Yes, we
welcome you to join us in our effort to take our worlds back, to take our
system back.  We have the courage.  We have the fire power.  We need
YOU.  Do you want to go around for the rest of your lives running from
system to system?  Living like animals packed aboard a freighter?
Dumped on strange worlds where Humans have no control?  Vote NO for
Federation membership.  Vote NO for scattering ourselves on alien
worlds.  Vote YES to maintain the Council of the Twelve and OUR
cultures.  Vote YES to take back your destiny."  The man disappeared
and a voiceover then said, "Paid for by members of 'Return Now!', a non-
profit organization."  Fade to black.
    Stunned, Boomer said, "Looks like trouble."
    "Yeah, you're telling me.  Does the Skipper know about this?" Jolly asked.
    "I don't know but I think that he, the Colonel, AND the Commander ought to
 be told," Boomer replied.

                          -----

    Cassiopeia impatiently paced back and forth in front of a row of
lockers in the Galactica's crew quarters, her arms folded close to her body.
    "Starbuck, we really need to take the time to talk," Cassiopeia began.
    "About what?" Starbuck replied with confusion.
    "About US," Cassiopeia said.
    Starbuck sighed as he realized that yet another argument was
about to begin.  "Come on Cass.  I mean, haven't we been through this
before?"
    "Yes we have, but things have changed and I want to know how
that will affect our relationship."
    "Whaddya mean?  I don't see where..."
    "Well I do.  Tell me Starbuck, do you plan on going to Earth to
live?  What's going to happen to the Colonial Warriors?  What about the
Galactica?  What about MY job?  What about me?"
    "Well... I don't know, I've thought about it.  We still haven't heard
the final word on what will happen to the Colonial Warriors.  I think they
did say that we might be able to join Star Fleet, but see, I don't think that
THAT'S my style.  I'm a Warrior and Star Fleet doesn't seem too
interested in Warriors."
    "That's just it Starbuck and that's why we have to sit down and talk
about this seriously."
    A little irritated, Starbuck responded, "Right now Cassie, I can't,
and not just because of what's happened.  It's just that... well, I really
haven't decided yet."
    "Decided what?  Whether you're going to leave your job or me?"
    "Hey come on, that's not fair."
    "Isn't it?  Well when you're finished `deciding', you know where to find
me, otherwise, don't bother." Cassiopeia then stormed out of the crew quarters.
    "Hey Cass, wait!  Come on."

                          -----

    Boxey sat on the floor with his robot daggit and watched while his
father pulled his civilian clothes out of a drawer and neatly placed them
in a metal suitcase.
    "Dad, can I come with you to the Enterprise?  Can I?" the young
boy begged.
    "I don't know Boxey, it may be really boring," was the Colonial
Captain's reply.
    "But I heard there were loads of kids on the Enterprise.  Ones who
are my age," he insisted.
    Apollo stopped momentarily, placed his hands on his hips, and
sighed as he began to consider the idea.
    "Actually, that is true. I don't think they'll mind one more child.
Besides, you really do need to be with children your own age."
    "Then I can go?"
    Apollo began to chuckle and shake his head at his son's uncanny
ability to charm.  "Sure, you can go, sport."
    "And Muffit too?"
    "Yes, Muffit can go too."
    "YAY!" Boxey shouted, and he jumped up and ran over to hug his
father.  Muffit began to bark excitedly, and then he finally decided to
hobble over and join in.

                          -----

    Apollo walked into the Officer's Club, grabbed Lieutenant Boomer,
and motioned him off to the side, away from the others in the room.  He
then whispered, "Hey look Boomer, what I'm about to say is coming from
the heart.  Of all the Warriors who'll be staying behind here, you're the
ONLY one who I can trust to take charge, so... I'm officially putting you
in command of Blue Squadron."
    "Gee thanks Apollo.  I mean, you go flying off to party on some
recreation planet, with beautiful beaches, beautiful oceans, and I assume,
beautiful women, and I'm stuck here to mend the fences and watch the
herds," Boomer teased.
    "Seriously, Boomer.  I meant what I said."
    "Yeah, I know, thanks.  I won't let you down Captain."
    "I know you won't.  Look, take care, okay?" Apollo said, grabbing
Boomer's inner forearm.
    "Yep and don't do anything I wouldn't do," Boomer replied,
completing the Warrior's handshake by grasping Apollo's inner forearm
in return.
    "And the same to YOU buddy," the Captain said with a chuckle.
"Don't think I don't hear about what goes on around here when I'm away
on a mission."
    "Huh?" Boomer said, feigning ignorance and looking up at the
ceiling.  "Don't know WHAT you're talking about..."
    "See ya." Apollo replied as he turned and headed for the door.
    Boomer reached out, caught the Captain's arm, and said, "Oh,
and one other thing I forgot to tell you.  Ever hear about that group that
calls themselves `Return Now!'?"
    Apollo thought for a moment and then answered, "I'm not sure,
the name sounds familiar..."
    "Well to make this quick, they plan on going back to the Colonies."
    "What?"
    "That's right.  A bunch of us just saw their commercial on the IFB.
They're recruiting.  Just wanted to let you know," Boomer noted.
    Apollo sighed and responded, "You know, after all we've been
through to get here, and our people ACTUALLY want to go back?"
    "Yeah.  I'm just afraid they may try to instigate something here
while the Commander and the Council are gone."
    "I see what you mean.  Look Boomer, I think you're responsible
enough to handle it.  Do what you can.  The most important thing right
now is for us to get through these negotiations, get a 'yes' vote from the
Federation on our application for membership, and then go from there.
We gotta do this thing one step at a time.  I don't want to start jumping
ahead of the game by trying to predict what MIGHT happen later on
down the road.  Just hold down the fort for me buddy, okay?"
    "I'll try to do the best I can Apollo.  Take care of yourself and
good luck," Boomer solemnly said.
    "And good luck to you too, Boom Boom."

                          --o--

    Jean-Luc Picard stood in the Transporter Room, with arms held
closely to his sides, as he watched the twinkling beam begin to take
shape.  When the beam ceased, the man who now appeared, dressed
in a close-fitting navy blue and silver-trimmed uniform, stood shaking
slightly as he took a deep breath to force back the nausea and
dizziness he felt.
    "Commander Adama, welcome again aboard the Enterprise," Picard said
jovially.
    Adama took another deep breath before he spoke.  "Thank you
Captain.  I AM in one piece, am I not?  I feel a slight dizziness."
    Picard quickly stepped up to the transporter pad and assisted
the man down the steps.  "You should be fine Adama.  The effects of
the transport are only temporary.  Unfortunately, some feel it more than
others.  After a while, we all get used to it.  Actually, I'm glad that you
agreed to at least try it.  You'll find that it is much more efficient than a
shuttle."
    "Efficient perhaps, but highly disorienting, Captain," Adama
managed.  "However, seeing that I made it here intact, I expect that I
will survive."
    Picard chuckled and agreed, "Yes Commander, I believe you will.
Please, let me show you to your quarters.  I am certain that you will
find them most luxurious."
    "Thank you Captain.  Oh, and I will need to have access to one
of your communications terminals so that I can contact my Commanding Officer,
Colonel Tigh."
    "Of course, there is one in your quarters.  If you wish, we can
establish a secure channel between you and your ship as well."
    "That would be much appreciated."

                          -----

    "Captain, the U.S.S. Victory has arrived with Admiral Baird and
a number of Federation Ambassadors and delegates.  They're ready to
transport at our earliest convenience," Riker reported, over the intercom
to the Captain's Ready Room.
    "Very good, Number One.  Signal the Victory that we're ready to
bring the Admiral on board.  I will meet him shortly in Transporter Room
3.  Also, coordinate the transport of the delegates with the Transporter
Chief.  Oh, and one final thing, inform the Captain of our best wishes on
his next assignment," Picard added.
    "Aye sir."

                          -----

    The transporter beam activated and the resulting blue-white light
slowly coalesced into a moderately tall, somewhat paunchy, gray-haired
man dressed in an Admiral's uniform.
    "Jonathan, good to see you again!  My God, how long has it
been?" Jean-Luc Picard beamed, as he firmly grasped Admiral Baird's
outstretched hand and motioned him towards the exit to the corridor.
The two men began to walk and talk excitedly.
    "Jean-Luc, it's been way too long, you old devil, and what the hell
are you still doing here anyway?  Didn't they offer you a position as
Commandant of Star Fleet Academy?"
    "How did you...?"
    "Come on Jean-Luc.  You know nothing's a secret at HQ.  We all
want to know when you plan on passing the torch to the kids and stop all
this running around from system to system.  It's high time for you to get
on with the REAL happenings in Star Fleet."
    "My, my, my, you haven't changed one bit, have you?" Picard
chuckled.  "You don't have to worry about me my friend, I'm very happy
where I am, thank you."
    "You can't be serious."
    "As serious as I can get.  So... moving on to a more pleasant
topic... how's Arlene and the kids?" Picard asked, quickly changing the
subject.
    "Arlene's just fine.  In fact, she's just been promoted to `Director
of Fleet Information Services'.  Would you believe it?  And this for a
woman who almost managed to flunk every composition course she took at the
Academy!" Baird remarked with a laugh.  "Oh and by the way I'm a grandfather
again, to a little boy, Jonathan J. Baird the third!" he proudly added.
    "Congratulations.  I'm really happy for you Jonathan."
    "Well I'm not happy for you, Jean-Luc.  You still haven't told me
why you passed up that promotion."
    "Jonathan, not again..."
    "No really.  At least give me something that I can pass along to
you know who, so he can get off my back."
    "Picard let out a long sigh and shook his head in resignation.
"Boothby... he's at it again," he mumbled under his breath.  "Really
Jonathan... it's just that, well... as I said before, I'm very happy where
I am right now and I'm really not a `political type', if you know what I
mean."
    "I see... just as I figured.  Well, I just hope you know what you're
doing, old friend.  I feel blessed for what I have... my career, my family."
    "Believe me when I tell you that there is NO doubt in MY mind.
Besides, you've lived a charmed life ever since the day I met you.
Record-breaking promotions, youngest Admiral..."
    "Well, they offered ME the position of Commandant of the
Academy, Jean-Luc.  It's official.  No more `Acting'.  I can start when
I'm through here."
    "And you plan on taking it?"
    "Damned RIGHT I'm taking it!  I made a bargain with an old
acquaintance of mine a long, long time ago, back when we were at the
Academy.  I promised to enjoy my life to the fullest and I don't plan on
stopping now."
    The two men finally arrived at the door to the guest quarters.
    "Ah... here we are," Picard observed, as he punched a few
buttons on a panel next to the door.  "I hope you find that your quarters
are adequate."
    "More than adequate Jean-Luc," came the response, as the
Admiral stepped inside the cabin and spun around to admire the
spaciousness of the room.  "You know, I actually envy your having
command of a Galaxy Class ship.  Sure beats those old tubs we
used to tool around in back in the old days, doesn't it?"
    "You'll get no argument from me, although I do sometimes miss
those tubs now and then.  These larger vessels are well appointed,
true, but sometimes I find them a bit impersonal."
    "You can reminisce all you want Picard, but give me a big, fast
ship and a star to guide me and I'll be in seventh heaven."
    Picard shook his head and laughed.  "Still the same old  J. J.
Listen, if there's anything, and I mean ANYTHING you need, just call.
Good enough?"
    "Aye, aye Captain."
    "I'll see you later this evening at the banquet.  You will be able to
attend?"
    "Wouldn't miss it for the world, Jean-Luc."

                          -----

    Jean-Luc Picard sat in his Ready Room reviewing the crew's leave
schedule when Lieutenant Worf's voice boomed over the intercom.
    "Captain, the Galactica's Alpha Shuttle, with the Colonial Council
of the Twelve, is requesting permission to dock."
    "Very good Mister Worf.  Bring them in the Main Shuttle Bay.
Number One, Mister Worf, Counselor Troi, would you accompany me
to the Shuttlebay?  Mister Data, you have the Con," Picard ordered.

                          -----

    Picard, Riker, Troi, and Commander Adama stood calmly on
the side of the bay as the Galactica shuttle glided in, reversed its
thrusters, and came to a halt near the center.  The hatch popped open
as the engine whine began to die down.  Lieutenants Sheba and
Starbuck stepped through the doorway and began to walk towards the
Enterprise's crew.  Then Cassiopeia, Boxey, and Captain Apollo came
out and joined the others at the side of the bay.
    Captain Picard extended his hand to each and remarked,
"Welcome again aboard the Enterprise.  We are glad to have you here
once more.  I believe that your group is the last to come on board.  We
should be ready to be underway shortly."
    "Captain... Father," Apollo acknowledged, nodding to each.
    "Grandfather!" Boxey exclaimed, as he ran over to Adama, with
arms held high, indicating that he wanted to be picked up.
    "Boxey!" Adama replied with a big smile, as he swept the boy up
in his arms.  "How was your trip here?"
    "Neat!  But how did you get here before us?"
    "Well Boxey," Adama began, "it's a long story.  Maybe I'll tell you
later on tonight," he replied as he put Boxey down.
    "Come on Boxey," Apollo said, "we gotta put your things away."
    Deanna walked over to the young boy and said, "He's adorable.
How old is he?"
    "I'm almost seven yahrens old!" Boxey answered.
    "Wow!  You're almost grown," Deanna teased.
    Boxey began to blush and then he spotted Picard looking at him
with amusement.  He walked over and stood in front of the Enterprise's
Captain, rigid as if at attention.  He then asked, "Are you the
Commander of this ship?"
    Riker tried to stifle a snicker as Picard briefly looked his way and
then turned back to Boxey.  "Yes, I am young man."
    Muffit hobbled over, sat by Boxey's side, and began to bark.
    "A robot dog?" Deanna inquired, with fascination.
    "He's a daggit!" Boxey quickly corrected.  "His name is Muffit!"
    "Well Boxey, I'll have my Second Officer show you and your father
the play area, where there are other children," Picard offered.
    "Yes sir!" Boxey replied, with a salute of his hand.
    Picard chuckled, tapped his Comm badge, and said, "Picard to Data."
    "Data here."
    "Commander, could you report to the Main Shuttle Bay please."
    "Aye sir," was the reply.
    The members of the Council and their assistants continued to file
out of the shuttle.  Commander Riker walked towards them.
    "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard the Enterprise.  My
name is Commander William Riker, the First Officer, and this is
Lieutenant Commander Deanna Troi, our ship's Counselor.  Please, you
may come this way."
    As the Councillors moved towards Riker and Troi, the Galactica's
Officers gathered around Adama, and Worf stepped over to them saying,
"I will escort you to YOUR quarters.  Please follow me."
    At that point, Data entered the bay, spoke briefly to Captain
Picard, and then walked over to Apollo and Boxey.
    "Captain, I am pleased to see you again," Data remarked.
    "Commander," Apollo replied.  "This is my son Boxey," he added.
    "The Captain would like me to escort you to your quarters and then
to the play area."
    "Sounds good to me.  Hey Starbuck," he then said, looking over at
his Junior Officer, "catch you later."
    Starbuck responded, "Right, later."
    The various groups then exited the Shuttle Bay.

                          -----

    As the Enterprise swiftly raced towards Pacifica, the guests
meandered through the ship, either to the Lounges, their quarters, or
the various Holodecks.  A tall, dark-haired and black-eyed man walked
into Ten Forward, spotted Sheba, and immediately walked towards her
table.
    "Excuse me, anyone sitting here?" Ambassador Marks asked the
young woman seated alone at a table near the panoramic center window.
    "Uh, well no," Lieutenant Sheba hesitantly replied.
    "Good.  May I join you?"
    Sheba looked around the Lounge at a number of empty tables and
then responded with resignation, "Uh, no, I don't mind.  Please, sit
down."
    "How rude I am.  I haven't properly introduced myself..."
    "Aren't you one of the Ambassadors?  I think I recall you speaking
with members of our Council."
    "Marks.  My name is Darrion Marks.  And you are..."
    "Sheba.  Lieutenant Sheba."
    "Sheba.  What a beautiful name.  What is it that you do, Sheba?"
    "I'm a member of the Colonial Fleet, a Warrior, a fighter pilot.  I'm
in command of Silver Spar Squadron," she proudly stated.
    "Fighter pilot?" Marks said with surprise.  "You don't strike me as the
type."
    "Really," Sheba began, somewhat insulted by his implication,
"and what DO I `strike' you as?"
    "Why, there is a planet in the Federation.  It is called Haven.  A
beautiful planet, full of peace-loving people.  And on this planet, there is
a group of women who are known as `The Healers'.  Very, very beautiful
women who, legend has it, can cure a man's soul just by having him
gaze upon them."
    "Oh now come on, you can't be serious.  If it wasn't for your
pleasantness, I'd come right out and say that you're handing me a
line..."
    Chuckling, the Betazoid said, "Hmm, you don't believe me, do you?"
    "Not for a centon."
    "Centon, eh?  Well to be truthful, there IS a planet called Haven
and there is a sect of women on this planet from the planet Minara.
These women ARE believed to be healers.  Few have had the
opportunity to meet with them since their society is secret.  However,
I was fortunate to have been invited to their dwelling place."
    Suspiciously, Sheba responded, "I see, and how did you
manage that?  How was it that YOU were invited and no one else?"
    Smiling, Marks replied, "The women are empaths, TRUE
empaths.  As a telepath and empath myself, I was welcomed there, as
are most Betazoids."
    "Uh huh, and what is it that they do?"
    "Well, as full empaths, they have the ability to absorb the
emotions of others.  In fact, they can actually transfer those emotions
from any individual to themselves.  Once transferred, they apparently
have the ability to dissipate those emotions, particularly the bad ones,
so as not to cause harm to themselves."
    "I see.  I guess I learn something new every centaur," Sheba remarked.
    "Have you been to the Holodecks?" Darrion Marks asked, quickly
changing the subject.
    "NO!!  I keep hearing everyone talk about them but I've never been in
one."
    "Would you like to see one?"
    Hesitating, Sheba replied, "Well actually..."
    "Oh come on, I won't bite you.  I'd like to show you my planet."
    "Your planet?  You mean Betazed?"
    "Yes.  There are beautiful gardens there with exotic flowers,
whose sweetness can almost make you dizzy, and plants that will sing
you to sleep at night."
    "How poetic," Sheba said, with skepticism.  "But how can
you..."
    "Oh, a long time ago, I developed a program for the Holodeck to
bring with me since I'm away from home all the time.  Over the years,
I've refined the program.  I don't often get the chance to come on board
the larger ships that are equipped with Holodecks like the Enterprise,
so I try to make use of the program whenever I can."
    "Well..."
    "All jokes aside, I think you'll like it.  Do you like flower gardens?"
    "Sure.  Except for the little time I could find to spend on the Agro
ships, it's been so long since I had the chance to walk through a real
garden."
    "Well then what're we waiting for??"
    Sheba, now relaxed and giggling finally relented and said, "Yeah,
what ARE we waiting for?"

                          -----

    "Okay delegates, that's it.  That's the end of the tour for the day.
Anyone have any questions?" Riker asked.
    The Councillor from Picon immediately spoke.  "Commander, we
are very grateful that you took the time from your most important duties
to accommodate us.  I think that all of us would agree that your
Federation's technology is truly wondrous."
    Politely, Riker responded, "Thank you Councillor.  We consider
it our duty to make your stay with us as comfortable as possible and
we want to allow you to see and experience some of the benefits of
membership, should you choose to formally apply for it."
    The Aquarian Council President then noted, "Commander, many
of our people have expressed grave concerns for their safety.  Granted,
we acknowledge your victory against the Cylons, however, we need
your assurances that our military will be fully equipped with your
technology to be able to handle any future attacks."
    Somewhat perplexed by the magnitude of the question, the First
Officer replied, "Those military issues that you raise will be fully
addressed at the Federation talks.  I believe that Admiral Baird will be
handling that aspect."
    "I see.  Then I shall await that session or endeavor to speak with
the Admiral myself, just prior.  Thank you Commander."
    "If there isn't anything else, I will take my leave of you.  A
member of our Security staff can escort you to your quarters or to any
of our lounges.  Thank you." Riker then nodded his head, turned, and
walked away with a sigh.  He mumbled to himself, "The ever-smiling
host.  Such is the burden of the First Officer."
    "Commander?"
    Riker turned and looked at the Betazoid Ambassador. "Ambassador?  What can
I do for you?"
    "Well, actually... this has nothing to do with the negotiations or
your tour for that matter but..."  The man paused briefly, smiled and then
said, "I hear you play a mean game of poker."
    Taken back by the comment, a surprised Riker said, "Oh yeah?
Where'd you hear that?"
    "Oh, I have my sources," the Betazoid remarked with a sly smile
and a wink.
    "And those `sources' don't happen to be Betazoid, do they?"
    Marks began to laugh.  "No need.  I've heard your name
mentioned all the way from Risa to DS9."
    "I see... so, you play?" Riker asked, intrigued by the prospect of playing
cards with a full telepath.
    "Occasionally."
    "You any good?" Riker challenged.
    "I'd say I was fair, IF you consider that I beat Arjus on Toban III."
    "Oh come on.  YOU actually...?  I don't believe it," Riker countered.
    "Actually Commander, I was losing for the first few hands, then I
managed to run into a lucky streak."
    "I expect you would, being that you can read minds," Riker said
with skepticism.
    "Ah but you forget, I can't read a Ferengi's mind and that's exactly
what Arjus is, right down to the Felosian earring he sports in his ear."
    "Still..."
    "Listen Commander, if I went through life making it my business to
know everything that everyone I'm exposed to was thinking, my life would
be chaotic, if not rather boring," Darrion Marks noted.
    "Boring?  I'd think that you'd have an advantage..."
    "Yes but then what would be the challenge?  I would only develop
a dependency that I really don't want to have.  Besides, if Betazoids keep
their minds open twenty-four hours a day, I'm sure you can imagine how
that could eventually drive us mad."
    Riker thought for a minute and then said, "True.  Deanna tells me
that often enough.  Listen, if you're interested, you can join us tomorrow
night.  In my quarters.  Deck 8."
    "I'll be there, and you won't regret it," the Ambassador promised.
    "Anyone who can beat that no-good, lying, cheating Ferengi Arjus,
is welcome at MY poker table anytime."

                          -----

    Deanna Troi walked briskly down the corridor, rounded a corner
and nearly collided with a flustered Lwaxanna Troi.
    "Mother!  What are you doing here?" Deanna exclaimed.
    "Now Little One, is that any way to greet your mother?"
    "But..."
    "You should be overjoyed to see me and impressed with the fact
that I will be going to Pacifica to assist in the negotiations between the
Federation and the Colonists."
    "But I thought..." Deanna tried to interject.
    "Now, now Little... I mean Deanna.  I'll be honest.  I am only one
of several Betazoid delegates who were selected to help carry out these
negotiations.  Of course, I also have an in-depth knowledge of the
Conference sites on Pacifica."
    Lwaxanna resumed her stroll towards her cabin as she continued
her explanation.  "The Federation has decided to hold simultaneous,
multilateral talks regarding trade issues, food production, defense
matters and the like, and so naturally, I was selected to assist in
handling the settlements.  I am personally in charge of seeing to it that
the Colonists make a smooth transition into the Federation.  Isn't that
wonderful?  Enough of the subject!!  So tell me, what has happened since
I talked to you last?  No... never mind that either!  Why don't you tell me
about that very handsome, very distinguished, AND very available
Commander Adama I keep hearing mention of..."
    "Mother..." the Counselor repeated with a sigh as she followed her
into the guest quarters.  "Why is it that every time you come on board,
you go running after some man?"
    "Deanna, I resent it when you characterize my greeting and
conversing with certain individuals as 'running after' someone."
    "Well you don't seem to realize how it looks to other people."
    "And since when have I cared what 'other people' think?" Lwaxanna
retorted.  "Besides, you forget that I already KNOW what others think
anyway."
    "But Mother, you keep insisting on making a big production out
of everything," Deanna noted.
    "As I should... as YOU should, Little One.  As daughter of the Fifth.."
    "Yes, yes.  How many times do you have to keep repeating that?"
    "YOU may want to assimilate with these people, Deanna, but I
never have and never will.  I will NOT compromise MY culture and
privileged background."
    "You seem to forget that you married one of them AND produced children."
    "Yes, and I will NEVER regret that in the least.  Your father was such a
wonderful man.  So very understanding.  So..."
    "Willing to put up with your behavior," Deanna added, completing the
sentence.
    "Little One!   What has happened to the respect that I taught you
to have for your family?  I've had enough.  You may leave now."
    "But Mother..."
    "NOW!   Just leave me alone."

                          -----

    Later that afternoon Deanna returned, perched herself on a table
in her mother's bedroom, and innocently asked, "Mother, tell me about
Ambassador Darrion Marks."
    "Mr. Homm, please bring that chest with my jewelry.  I must look
my best for the Commander of the Colonial Fleet tonight."  Lwaxanna
Troi was agitated once again and she flitted about the room, stopping
often to admire herself in the large mirror that hung on the wall.
    "Mother, are you listening to me?"
    "What was that dear...?"
    "Darrion Marks..." Deanna repeated. "Your colleague."
    "No, no, NO!  Not that chest, the other one!" Lwaxanna chided her servant.
    Exasperated, Deanna snapped, "Mother!!"
    "Deanna, you don't have to raise your voice.  I heard you the first time.
I don't know what has happened to you lately.  You've really lost all of your
social graces since you came on board this ship."
    Deanna began to turn bright red and she balled her fists to suppress her
impatience.
    Finally Lwaxanna responded, "Darrion Marks... Darr-i-on... Oh yes!
THAT Darrion Marks.  He's a member of the Third House, dear.  Never
really dealt with them very much.  From what I understand, he's spent
the last month on the Galactica, interacting with the Colonists."
    "Ah ha... I see..." came the response from the now enlightened Deanna.
    "Not that THAT'S particularly important," Lwaxanna replied
defensively.  "Granted, the Third House precedes us but what you must
always look at is what each House has accomplished over the
generations.  For example..."
    "Never mind Mother..." Deanna broke in.
    "Besides," Lwaxanna continued.  "He volunteered to work with those... those
DREADFUL Cardassians.  Crude people, if you ask me."
    "Cardassians?" Troi said with alarm.
    "The Truce little one, the Truce.  Mr. Homm, where is the suitcase
with my shoes?!"

                          --o--

    Boxey wandered around the playroom, a little overwhelmed by all
the toys and games and children who milled about.  He spotted a
strange-looking boy, somewhat older than he but not much taller.  He
walked over to him and tentatively asked, "What's your name?"
    "Alexander," the young Klingon replied.  "What's yours?"
    "Boxey.  My name's Boxey.  You're not a Human, are you?"
    "I'm a Klingon," Alexander proudly stated.  "But I'm part Human too."
    "What are Klingons?" Boxey asked.
    "Klingons are warriors," Alexander replied.
    "MY dad's a Warrior.  I'm gonna be a Warrior too, when I grow up."
    "I bet he's not as strong as my dad.  MY dad's Chief of Security."
    "Well my dad's Captain of the whole Blue Squadron!"
    "What's that?"
    "They're all Warriors, like Starbuck and Boomer and Jolly."
    "What do they do?" Alexander asked with intense curiosity.
    "They fight the Cylons in their Vipers!" Boxey said excitedly.
    "What's a Cylon?  What're Vipers?"
    "The Cylons are the bad guys.  They hate Humans.  They killed
my Mom.  A Viper's a ship.  It can fly real fast!" Boxey explained.
    "Oh..." Alexander replied, trying to envision what the fighter ship
must look like.  Then he had a great idea.  "You wanna see something
neat?"
    "Yeah!" Boxey replied.
    The two quickly ran out of the playroom, Alexander leading the
way, and headed down the corridor.  A few minutes later, they stopped in
front of a Holodeck door.
    "Computer?" the Klingon boy ordered. "Run program `Alexander,
Warrior One', difficulty level one."
    "Program complete.  Enter when ready," the computerized voice
acknowledged.
    "Wanna be a warrior right now?" Alexander asked.
    "How?" Boxey answered with curiosity.
    "Come on, I'll show you."
    As the two approached the Holodeck entrance, the doors
immediately parted to reveal a dark and dismal scene.  The remains of a
small village, stark and abandoned, lay in front of their eyes.  Debris was
strewn everywhere.
    "What happened here?" Boxey asked with a slightly hesitant voice,
as he looked around at the desolation.  "Where are we?  Where are all
the people?"
    "There are no people," Alexander replied, eyes widening with
excitement and anticipation.  "But there are monsters here who'll try to
kill you so keep your eyes open."
    "I don't wanna stay here.  I'm scared," was the now frightened reply.
    "I thought you were a warrior?"
    "But I'm still little.  When I grow up, I'll be the best Warrior in
the universe.  You'll see," Boxey said defensively.  "You just wait..."
    All of a sudden, a large figure leapt out in front of the two boys
and held a long, metal pole in front of them.  When the thing lifted it's
head, the skeletal face glowed in the dim light.
    Boxey screamed and turned to run towards the Holodeck exit.
He stopped short and stared in confusion at an old, wooden
wheelbarrow and a tree where the doors had previously been.  Quickly,
he reeled around again to look for his new friend and watched in horror
as Alexander had retrieved a large sword of some kind and had begun to
battle the creature.  Boxey scooted around to the rear of the
wheelbarrow and crouched down low.
    "Hey Boxey," Alexander yelled, "I need your help!"
    "No!  I'm scared!  I wanna go home."
    Suddenly, a low-pitched voice boomed from behind.
    "ALEXANDER!  What are you doing here?!  Computer!  Freeze
program!" Worf bellowed.
    Boxey, terrified as it was, watched with disbelief as the horrifying
creature froze in place, metal pole held at an awkward angle, just as it
was about to come crashing down on Alexander's head.
    "You did NOT request my permission to leave the play area.
Captain Apollo is looking for his son.  Where is he?  The other children
said that he was with you," Worf demanded.
    Sheepishly, Alexander replied, "He's over there, behind that old
wheelbarrow."
    "Worf walked over to the wheelbarrow and slowly knelt down near it.
He spotted the small boy shivering on the ground behind it.  With a calm
voice and reassuring words, he stated, "It is alright Boxey.  None of this
is real.  Nothing here will hurt you."
    Softly whimpering, Boxey replied, "Promise?"
    "Promise," Worf answered with a sympathetic smile threatening
to curl on his lips.
    Slowly, tentatively, the small boy emerged from behind one large,
wooden wheel and stepped into the open.
    "You see?" Worf confirmed.  "It IS alright.  Watch me carefully."
He stood up straight and ordered, "Computer.  End program."
    All of a sudden, the village, the creature and everything else in
the area disappeared.  Left in their place were Alexander, Worf, Boxey
and an empty black room.  On the walls, parallel yellow lines traversed
and intersected each other, from floor to ceiling.
    "WOW!" Boxey responded with amazement, his fear now gone.
"Neat!  What is this place?"
    "It is called a Holodeck but it is time for us to go now.  Alexander,
I want you to return to our quarters.  I will deal with you later."
    "Yes sir," Alexander mumbled.
    "Come on Boxey, your father is looking for you," the Security
Chief stated, as he grabbed the Human boy's hand and left the Holodeck.

                          -----

    When Worf and Boxey entered the play area, Apollo, who was
talking to one of the teachers, spotted them, nodded a thank you to
the teacher, and walked over to the Klingon.
    "Oh good, you found him.  Thanks, I really appreciate it," Apollo
said with relief.
    "Boxey was with my son on one of the Holodecks.  I will
PERSONALLY see to it that Alexander apologizes publicly to you,"
Worf replied flatly.
    "That's okay.  There's no need.  No harm done," Apollo
answered sincerely, while playfully tousling his son's hair.
    "I feel that there IS a need," Worf insisted.  "They were
participating in a program that is TOO intense for a young Human child.
I assure you that this will NOT happen again."
    A little concerned, Apollo asked, "Boxey, what happened?"
    "I'm okay Dad.  They said that the whole thing was fake.  It was
a warrior program!  Alexander was fighting with some skeleton monster
and..."
    "Whoa, whoa, whoa!  Slow down... slow down.  What do you
mean `fighting'...?"
    "Captain," Worf interrupted, "this technology may be a bit difficult
to explain but..."
    "Try me."
    "Very well.  The Holodeck is a device that is capable of taking
energy from the ship's stores and converting it into matter, in a process
similar to that used for our transporters and replicators.  It can be
programmed to reproduce almost any object or event."
    "I don't quite follow you..."
    "Generally, most crew members use the Holodeck for leisure, for
example, to recreate a beach or a mountain or a park.  Others, like
myself, program it for calisthenics or other exercises.  It is capable of
creating an opponent for competition."
    "Wait a centon.  You mean you people can create a person??  A
real live person?" Apollo asked with confusion.
    "Yeah Dad!" Boxey interjected.  "You should see..."
    "Hold on Boxey..." Apollo interrupted.  "Let me get this straight,"
he continued.  "This thing... this `Holodeck', can actually..."
    "Captain Apollo," Worf finally responded, "Holodeck `matter', can
ONLY exist inside the Holodeck chamber, and no... the `person' is NOT
alive."
    "This is really beginning to become a little overwhelming to me
Lieutenant.  First you tell me that you people can disassemble
someone, `beam' them over to another location, and then reassemble
them, and my father, of all people volunteered to try it!  Now you talk
about recreating people and mountains and parks out of thin air.  I
mean, this can't be for real."
    "Believe it Captain.  If you want, I can show you what I'm talking about."
    "I would very much like to see what you're talking about, but right
now, I don't have the time.  I have to get to that banquet and I'm running
late as it is.  Maybe later."
    "As you wish," Worf replied.  He nodded and then left the room.
    "Listen Boxey... just stay around here or in our quarters, okay?
I don't want you wandering around the ship," Apollo cautioned.  He
squatted down to reach Boxey's eye level, pointed his index finger in a
scolding but light-hearted manner and said, "Get it?"
    "Got it!" was the expected reply.
    "Good!" came the finale.  "Okay sport, let's go," Apollo said, after
a playful poke to Boxey's mid-section.  He stood up straight again and
held out his hand.
    "Aye, aye sir!" Boxey proudly proclaimed, with a quick hand salute.
He reached for his father's pro-offered hand and the two left the playroom.

                          -----

    Apollo and Boxey returned to their quarters on the Enterprise.
Apollo, knowing that he would be late arriving at the banquet in Ten
Forward, moved quickly to ready Boxey for bed.
    "Dad, is it true about what they said?  That we're not really going
to Earth?" Boxey innocently inquired.
    "Boxey, who's been talking to you?" Apollo asked, as he pulled
Boxey's tunic over his head and pulled on his pajama top.
    "Well, my friend Pip and my friend Teela and..."
    "Listen to me Boxey, whatever happens, WE will be going to Earth."
    "But what about Starbuck?"
    "What about him?  I'm sure he's..."
    "THAT'S not what I heard.  I heard that he and Cassiopeia got mad
at each other and had a big fight.  I heard that..."
    "That's enough, Boxey!" Apollo snapped.  Then, apologetically he
said, "Look, I'm sorry I got mad at you but... a lot has happened
recently, you know, all the excitement about finding the Earth people,
and sometimes the excitement can make people say and do things that
they really don't mean."
    "Like when I stayed up real late and I was tired and I got mad at
Boomer?" Boxey suggested, as he slid his pants off and stepped into
his pajama bottoms.
    "That's exactly right, Boxey."
    Shifting to his mischievous side, Boxey then remarked, "I STILL
think that  Starbuck wants to stay on the Galactica."
    "Boxey... let's drop it.  No more talking about Starbuck, okay?
Time for bed."
    "Okay," Boxey relented.
    "Okay.  Up you go," Apollo said, while gently lifting his son up on the
bed.
    "Dad?"
    "Huh?"
    "Promise me that we're going to Earth?"
    "I promise, now go to sleep."
    "Aye, aye Captain!"

                          -----

    Seated at a desk in his guest quarters aboard the Enterprise,
Commander Adama was conversing with the man on his small
viewscreen.  "Let me get this straight Tigh, the referendum question on
the ballot has changed?" he asked with dismay.
    "I'm afraid so sir.  There was so much outcry among the people,
that whole ships threatened to boycott the vote entirely unless the
question was changed," the frustrated Colonel Tigh replied.
    "Hmm, so what is the question now, may I ask?" Adama
inquired with a hint of sarcasm.
    "Well... unless they made a change since I last checked, the
`question' has become `questions'."
    "And?"
    "Well, one question asks whether we should join the Federation
as a whole group OR have the right to choose by planet affiliation," was
the reply.
    "Just as I feared.  And what else?" the Colonial Commander asked.
    "The other questions appear to break down along planetary lines,
for example, `should OUR colony reside on Earth or should WE seek
out another world, either habited or uninhabited', and so on," Tigh
explained.
    "So how is the vote running now?"
    "The Inter-Fleet Broadcasting is reporting that it's running about
two to one for allowing each Colony to decide it's own fate.  The results
of the local questions haven't been reported yet."
    "I see..."  Adama paused to contemplate and then he said
forlornly, "Then it looks like the breakup of the Colonies."
    "It looks that way Commander, however, I've heard some talk
about trying to maintain the Planetary Council of the Twelve, at least
defacto."
    "How will that be possible, if we scatter ourselves among the
stars?  The Council was maintained over thousands of yahrens due to
the fact that we all resided in a single system.  Now..."
    "I know Adama..." the Colonel responded.  "I guess they were
considering keeping the Council in place for `ceremonial' functions."
    "And I know a few members who will NOT be too pleased by THAT
arrangement in the least," Adama added.
    "Both sides have been lobbying very hard for their views and it
looks like the nationalistic interests have won out."
    "So basically what you are saying is that some of us may join the
Federation while others do not.  Some of us will choose to reside on
Earth while others will not."
    "From the reports I've heard, that appears to be the sentiment.  In
fact, another scenario that has drawn a lot of support, believe it or not,
was put forth by a group who wants to return to our home worlds.  This
group has even gone as far as drawing up plans for rebuilding efforts,"
Tigh remarked.
    "What??  What about the Cylons?" Adama exclaimed.
    "Well sir, it appears that these people are under the impression
that Star Fleet can protect them from the Cylons."
    "Star Fleet?  How?  Our Colonies are not within their space.  They
will NEVER agree to an arrangement like that.  We were fortunate that
they pulled some strings and bent some rules to even intercede on our
behalf when we were under attack!"
    "I realize that Adama, but some are even talking about somehow
`obtaining' the Federation's technology, refitting their ships, and
returning to destroy the Cylons once and for all."
    Adama began to rub his closed eyelids as he said, "My God, are
they mad?  I fear that I have truly underestimated our people.  What I'd
hoped would be our salvation may indeed turn out to be our undoing."
He sighed heavily and then said with resignation, "Very well Tigh,
keep me informed.  I will relay what you have told me to the appropriate
Federation officials.  Apparently, they are going to have to make some
sort of special arrangements to accommodate the different Colonies."
    "Aye sir, and one other thing that I think MAY help.  It seems
that some of the Colonies who agree on the same issues have
expressed a willingness to work together as a unit.  If anything, at
least that will cut down on the number of similar topics that must be
simultaneously negotiated."
    "That's good news.  At least SOME of our people have agreed to
work together.  We may have some hope yet."
    "I'll let you know when the final results are in."
    "Thank you Colonel.  Shortly, I will be attending the final gala
aboard the Enterprise prior to our arrival at Pacifica, if you need to get
to me in an emergency.  Adama out."


                          C H A P T E R

                              II


    Ten Forward was once again filled with many dignitaries who
wandered about, conversed enthusiastically, and helped themselves
to a dizzying assortment of food and drink.  Jean-Luc Picard and
Commander Adama stood facing each other, deeply engaged in shop
talk, when a tall, dark-haired and dark-eyed woman approached.
    "Excuse me Jean-Luc..." the woman said, interrupting their
conversation.  She then turned her attention to the silver-haired man.
"Why... aren't you Commander Adama?" she inquired, with feigned
surprise.
    "Ahem..." the slightly embarrassed Captain mumbled.  "Commander, let me
introduce you to..."
    "Jean-Luc!  Really!!!  I am QUITE capable of introducing
myself."  With practiced flourish, she continued, "Commander Adama,
I am Lwaxanna Troi, Daughter of the Fifth House... Holder of the
Sacred Chalice of Rixx, Heir to the Holy Rings of Betazed, AND
Federation Ambassador from the planet Betazed."
    "I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Ambassador,"
Adama politely replied, a little thrown by the woman's formality.
    "Just call me Lwaxanna," she responded, with a mischievous
smile and a quick succession of eyebrow lifts.
    "Whatever you prefer..." A gulp.  "Lwaxanna..." Adama
answered, again with politeness that now bordered on incredulity.
    "I understand that you are descended from royalty,
Commander," Troi suddenly noted, moving to the true purpose of her
conversation.
    "In a way, I am," Adama acknowledged.  "My family is
descended from the Ninth Lord of Kobol.  I wear his seal," he said,
while fingering the sparkling, silver-colored medallion that he
wore around his neck at all times.  "We made our residence on the
planet Caprica.  I am a full member of the Colonial Council of the
Twelve, as the Representative from Caprica."
    "I see..." the Betazoid replied.  "Perfect..." she cooed.
    "Would the two of you excuse for a moment?  I believe that
I am needed elsewhere," Picard shrewdly announced, as he cupped his
hands in front of him, mustered his most diplomatic smile, and
carefully backed away from Adama and Mrs. Troi.  He then smoothly
spun in place and headed towards Riker, a now obvious, exasperated
look on his face.
    Riker began to slowly smile as Picard approached him.  He
then whispered with a smirk, "A prudent exit, sir.  Perfect timing."
    Out of the corner of his mouth, Picard mumbled, "Number
One, I never thought in my whole life..."  A pause.  "That I would
EVER have to stoop so low to say..."  He then quickly looked around
from side to side and whispered, "'better him than me'."
    Riker tried to stifle a laugh as he noted, "Yet you have
now stooped.  I NEVER say never."
    Picard raised an eyebrow at his First Officer's comment
and then remarked with a slight smile, "Indeed."

                          -----

    "So you're a pilot?" Darrion Marks observed to Lieutenant
Starbuck, as the two stood side by side near the end of the bar in
Ten Forward.
    "Sure am.  Only place to be.  In the cockpit and nothing
around you but stars," was Starbuck's cocky response.
    "You realize that if your people join the Federation, you
might not be able to fly that ship of yours," Marks noted.
    "Who says anyone's joining the Federation?  Besides, I
haven't made up MY mind yet," the Colonial Warrior retorted.
    "So where do YOU plan on going?"
    "I dunno.  I haven't had the chance to check out all the
star systems in this part of space.  All I know is that no one's
gonna take MY ship away from me."
    "There's been talk about mothballing the Galactica, you
know," the Ambassador remarked.
    "`Mothballing'?  What's that mean?"
    "Using her for scrap," Marks replied matter-of-factly.
    "Really..." Starbuck answered with skepticism.  "And just
where did you hear THAT one?"
    "Oh, I have my sources, Lieutenant."
    "Why are YOU so concerned?" Starbuck queried.
    "It's my JOB to be concerned," came the retort.
    Starbuck frowned, took a sip from his drink, and said in
a hushed voice, "I see... Sounds like you're suggesting that the
Colonists NOT join the Federation."
    "I'm not suggesting anything.  I'm just being truthful with you."
    "Truthful," Starbuck echoed flatly, while looking around
the room for any sign of Cassiopeia.
    "Listen, I've met a lot of your people and I've come to like many
of them.  I'm just trying to help," the Ambassador said, switching
tactics.
    "Help?  How's that?" the Lieutenant remarked.
    "I know for a fact that there are people in Star Fleet who are
just like you... `Warriors'.  They've been fighting with the `powers
to be' to build and fly a ship like yours," Darrion Marks offered.
    "Really...? Starbuck said, now becoming slightly interested
in the conversation.
    "In fact, some of them are considering quitting Star Fleet and
joining you," Marks added.
    "Joining us?" Starbuck replied with suspicion.  "Why?
We're obviously technologically backwards compared to..."
    "They're willing to modify your fighters to accommodate
warp technology."
    "Warp...?"
    "Your ships can only go light speed, correct?"
    "Yeah, and...?"
    "Imagine going faster than that AND having access to our
phaser technology."
    "Faster?  Than light?" Starbuck replied with amazement.
"I keep hearing that.  How is that poss..."
    "Shh... Listen, why don't you come by my quarters later
tonight and I'll tell you all about it," the Betazoid offered.
    "Starbuck started shaking his head while commenting, "Uh,
I don't know.  If you're talking about something illegal... Not that I'm
Mr. Clean but..."
    "Hardly.  Besides, you haven't signed anything yet with
the Federation, so anything goes.  The longer you hang around here,
the more you'll learn about the OTHERS in this area of space."
    "Hmm... Maybe I'll think about it."
    "Think fast, Lieutenant.  We don't have much time..." the
Ambassador advised as he walked away and towards an exit.

                          -----

    When Athena glanced up and across the Lounge, she watched
with suspicion as her father moved slowly towards a small table.
On his arm was a woman who she had never seen before.  Athena's
deep blue eyes narrowed with displeasure and her sudden brooding
clearly indicated unspoken disapproval.
    "Hey Athena, we lost you there.  What are you looking at
so intensely?" Sheba asked.
    Deanna Troi, who had been sitting and chatting with the
two young women, slowly tilted her head sideways as she began to
feel the confusion in Athena's mind.  She looked up and towards the
cause of the confusion and then suddenly bolted upright.  She watched
as her mother, arm-in-arm with Commander Adama, moved to sit at
a table.  "Mother!" she angrily exclaimed to herself.
    Innocently, Sheba looked over in the same direction and
asked, "Hmm... who is that woman with your father, Athena?  I've
never seen her before.  Actually, she's very beautiful."
    Athena quickly suppressed her true feelings and stated
flatly, "I don't know, she's probably one of the Siresses.  Ever
since Mother died, they all seem to be hovering around him all
the..."
    Troi immediately interrupted her and angrily spat, "That's
my mother!" and she stood and stormed away from the table into the
crowd.
    Looking somewhat embarrassed, Sheba managed an "Uh oh..."
    Athena retorted with "Uh oh is right!" and she also stood
up and briskly walked away towards the doors of the Lounge.
    Just as Athena left, Cassiopeia and Starbuck approached the
table, hands laden with all sorts of exotic foods.
    "Hey Starbuck, Cassiopeia," Sheba remarked, "Glad to see
you two decided to make up!" she teased.
    A concerned Cassiopeia looked around the room and then
asked, "Sheba, what happened?  What's wrong with Athena?  Where's
Deanna??"
    "You don't want to know," came Sheba's response.
    "Uh Sheba..." Starbuck began, "we may not `want to know', but we STILL
wanna know!" he blurted.
    "Okay, you asked for it.  Look over there," Sheba relented,
while pointing over in the direction of the Colonial Commander.
    "Hmm... and?" A pause.  "So what?  The Commander is with
an escort.  She's probably one of the delegates.  Big deal?" Starbuck
remarked.
    "It's a big deal alright if the escort just so HAPPENS to be Deanna Troi's
mother."
    "Ohhh... I see..." the Lieutenant said.  He paused briefly
to consider this new information and then with confusion said,
"Hmm... actually, I STILL don't get..."  A revelation then
occurred.  "OH!  You think that they, uh..." he began to gesture
with his hands, "That they are, you know..."
    "Starbuck..." Cassiopeia warned.

                          -----

    Deanna stood fuming in front of the large, picturesque window
at the center of Ten Forward, staring out at the kaleidoscopic display
of stars.  Data silently approached her from behind.
    "Excuse me Counselor."
    Troi was suddenly jolted back to awareness and she
immediately turned to face one of the few beings who she could not
sense when he was in her presence.
    "What is it Data?" she snapped, a little too harshly than planned.
    "I am sorry if I disturbed you.  It was not really that important."
    Data began to turn away and Troi grabbed his arm to stop him.
    "No wait!  I'm sorry Data," she replied apologetically.
"It's just that... well, I'm a little irritable tonight, that's
all.  It has to do with my mother.  I didn't mean to snap at you
like that."
    "That is quite alright Counselor.  As I noted before, my
query was not that important."
    "Go ahead Data.  Ask."
    "As you wish.  Since you brought up the subject of your
mother, I am curious.  I have noticed that ever since she
introduced herself to the Galactica's Commander, the two
of them have yet to part company.  I find that intriguing.  Do you
think that..."
    "Oh Data!" Troi nearly sobbed, as she fled past him and
towards the doors.
    "Hmm... Did I say something wrong?" Data asked aloud to
himself while furrowing his brows in a perfect imitation of a Human
in confusion.  "I do not recall making any remarks that I would
interpret would case such a reaction."
    The android quickly sought out and then spotted Riker on
the other side of the room.  He smoothly navigated through the
crowd towards the First Officer, politely nodding and smiling to
anyone who looked his way.
    "Excuse me Commander..." Data began.  "There seems to be
a... well, a problem."
    "What is it Data?  What's wrong?" Riker asked, not too
happy about being interrupted.
    "I was just talking to Counselor Troi and I happened to
bring up the fact that her mother and Commander Adama have been,
well, quite... inseparable this evening, and all of a sudden, she
looked as if she were ready to cry and she immediately left Ten
Forward.  I do not understand."
    "Uh oh..." Riker sighed.  "I'll go find her.  Stay here."
    "Sir?" Data quickly injected.  "May I suggest that perhaps
she wants to be left alone?"
    Riker halted, thought for a bit, and then said, "Maybe
you're right.  I might do better if I let her cool off for a while."

                          -----

    Fitted in the finery of his tan and dark-brown dress
uniform, Apollo slowly made his way through the throngs of
delegates and representatives in Ten Forward, in search of his
friends.  He finally spotted them and hurried towards their table.
    "Starbuck, Sheba, have you seen Athena?" he asked, as he
continued to visually search the room for his sister.
    "Hey buddy, thought you weren't gonna make it," Starbuck responded.
    "Had to put Boxey to bed.  Where's Athena?"
    "Well... I'm afraid she just left," Cassiopeia volunteered, as she glanced
over at Sheba.
    "Left?  Why?  Wasn't she feeling well?" Apollo inquired with concern.
    "Not after she found out that Deanna Troi's mother has the hots for your
father," Sheba teased, as she looked back at Cassiopeia.
    "What?  Deanna Troi's mother?  What are you talking about?"
    "Look over there buddy," Starbuck added, nodding his head
in the direction of Commander Adama and clearing his throat.
    After looking across the room, Apollo remarked, "Yeah...
so?  She's one of the Betazoid Ambassadors.  I'm sure they're
discussing business."
    "Think so?" Cassiopeia giggled, while playfully raising her
eyebrows at the now embarrassed Starbuck.
    "Oh now wait a centon...  I think you're all blowing this thing WAY out of
proportion," Apollo responded with a little irritation.
    "Tell THAT to Deanna Troi.  SHE went storming out of here right before
Athena did!" Sheba added.
    "Geez.  What MORE can go wrong tonight?  Have you seen Captain Picard?"
Apollo sighed.
    "He WAS here... actually, I haven't seen him in the past
ten or fifteen centons or so.  Maybe he had to go check on the
status of the ship?" Sheba reasoned.
    "Yeah, I guess I would do the same."  Changing the
subject, he then remarked, "Boy I'm starved, what's good to eat
around here anyway?"

                          -----

    Deanna Troi hastily stepped into the empty turbolift and
leaned back against the wall.  When the lift doors closed shut, she
forced herself to breathe slowly and deeply to calm her frayed
nerves.  The lift sat motionless for a while and then a familiar
voice declared, "State destination."
    "Huh?  Oh, Deck 8."
    The lift began to move and then it suddenly stopped.  The
doors opened and in walked Darrion Marks.
    "Hello," he politely said.
    "Good evening," Troi calmly replied.
    "Deck 6," he then ordered.
    Troi suddenly began to shiver and then she abruptly relaxed.
The lift stopped, the doors opened at her level, and she stepped out
into the empty corridor.
    "Good night," the dark-haired man replied.
    Troi gently nodded in his direction as the doors swished
shut.  She was slightly bewildered by the man's characteristically
black, but burning, Betazoid eyes.  She stood silently in the
corridor, briefly closing her eyes and then opening them again.
She finally started walking slowly towards her cabin.  She was
beginning to feel a slight tug in her mind but she couldn't quite
fix it to a specific person or event.
    When she reached the safe confines of her room, she stood
still, groaned slightly and then began to rub her temples, as the
`tugging' sensation intensified.  After a while, she walked into
her bathroom and pushed the small button on the counter.  The basin
cover slid back to reveal a small, oval-shaped pool of water.  She
carefully dipped her hands into the clear, cool liquid and slowly
brought a small amount towards her face.  Suddenly, she looked
up in the mirror, squinted her eyes and then screamed in pain, finally
crumbling to the floor in anguish.

                          -----

    Jean-Luc Picard returned to Ten Forward and immediately
made his way to the front of the room.  He sighed as he looked
around at the boisterous crowd.  "This is going to be a little
difficult," he remarked to himself.
    He stepped over to the bar, found an empty glass and a
drink stirrer, and then resumed his place.  He began to sharply rap
the glass with the stirrer while entreating, "May I have your
attention please."
    Slowly, the room became silent as all eyes focused on him.
    "Thank you.  I am pleased to announce that we have just
now reached the planet Pacifica and we have assumed an orbit around
it."
    The people turned to look out of the Lounge windows and
they gasped in surprise and delight to see that the previous view
of streaking stars had indeed been replaced by the steady presence
of a beautiful blue-white planet.
    "According to the schedule, your sessions will officially
begin at oh-nine hundred in the morning.  I wish to express my
crew's and MY best wishes for a productive day tomorrow," Picard
added, with a nod of the head to the delegates.
    They promptly expressed their satisfaction with robust applause.
    Slightly embarrassed, Picard concluded, "Please help
yourself to the many delicacies we are offering this evening and I
am grateful to have had the opportunity to provide you transportation
and our hospitality."
    The crowd again murmured it's approval and proceeded to
resume their conversations and merriment.
    Picard stepped down from the platform, relieved that this
minor detail was taken care of, and he moved towards his First
Officer.
    "Well Number One, I think I'll retire for the evening.  You have..."
    A piercing scream cut through the air in the room and everyone present
struggled to locate it's origin.
    Upon finding the source, Picard quickly pushed through the
onlookers to find Adama carefully supporting a now weakened Lwaxanna
Troi, while trying to guide her back to her chair.  "What happened?" he
inquired.
    "I don't know," Adama responded, somewhat shaken by the
ordeal.  "We were discussing some of her experiences on other
worlds when she suddenly paled and began to scream... as if she
were in some kind of pain."
    "Jean-Luc..." Lwaxanna pleaded.  "Something terrible has
happened.  Horrible!  You must DO something," she begged.
    "Mrs.Troi, please, what is wrong?  What has happened?"
Picard asked.
    "Horrible..." she gasped.  "The pain... must block out the
pain... concentrate... concentrate... calm..." She took a slow, deep breath.
"Alright... It's... it's alright.  I'll be fine now."
    "Mrs. Troi, if you can possibly shed ANY light on what has
happened... I think that you may want to go to sickbay as well."
    "No, no Jean-Luc.  I'm fine."
    "Please Lwaxanna.  I insist.  I will escort you there my..." Picard began.
    "Worf to Captain Picard."
    Picard tapped his Comm badge and replied, "Picard here."
    "Captain, it is imperative that you come to Deck 6, Section J, right
away."
    Picard looked up and across the room towards Riker with
worry etched on his face.  "On my way.  Picard out."  A second tap
on the badge terminated the connection.
    "Hmmm, I wonder what's up?" the First Officer mumbled to
himself.  His concern level immediately shifted up a notch and he
began to visually search the room for the Second Officer.
    Picard suddenly looked around at the confused delegates
and with deliberate calm, he began to speak.  "Please, delegates.
Everything will be fine.  Ambassador Troi is fine.  I urge you to
resume what you were doing and enjoy the rest of the evening."
    Members of the crowd gazed at each other with some
suspicion but then gradually began to carry on with their
conversations.
    Picard turned towards Adama and said, "Will you excuse me?
I need to attend to my Security Officer."
    "I understand Captain.  I will stay with the Ambassador."
    Picard nodded and immediately headed for the double doors of Ten Forward.

                          -----

    A worried Captain of the Enterprise stepped off the turbolift,
briskly walked down the long corridor, and slowed just in front of the
doors to an Observation Lounge, where two Security guards were
stationed.  He walked past them into the small room and suddenly
stopped in his tracks.  His face paled and he tried with difficulty to
suppress his sudden nausea.  Worf stood up and walked towards
him.
    "Captain, one of the Colonial Council President's assistants
found the two of them here.  He contacted Security immediately,"
Worf stated.
    Picard stood motionless as he struggled deep inside to make
sense of the carnage he saw before him.  He began to slowly
shake his head in revulsion and disbelief as he looked at what was
left of his good friend Jonathan Baird.  The partially dismembered
body of the Admiral was lying face down in a large pool of blood.
Not far away lay the Colonial Council President, a grisly grin
plastered on his face, to be frozen there forever.
    "Jean-Luc..." Beverly Crusher gently whispered, while
placing her hand on his arm and carefully guiding him out of the
room, "there's nothing more we can do here."
    Worf joined the Captain and Chief Medical Officer in the hallway.
    "Mr. Worf, I want a thorough investigation of what has
occurred here.  Any clue, any MINUSCULE shred of information MUST
be factored in," Picard managed.
    "Aye sir," came the reply.
    After sighing heavily, Picard tapped his Comm badge and
calmly said, "Picard to Riker."
    "Riker here."
    "Number One, will you please DISCRETELY accompany
Commander Adama to the Observation Lounge on Deck 6 at once?  This
is extremely urgent."
    "Understood sir," Riker replied.

                          -----

    Adama stood silently in the doorway of the Observation
Lounge, his lips squeezed tightly together, his brows furrowed.
His mind shifted quickly from the bloodshed in the Lounge to the
threat of bloodshed among his people if he couldn't satisfactorily
explain to them what had happened.  He sighed heavily and then
finally closed his eyes.   Picard touched his arm briefly and motioned
him out into the corridor.
    "It may be best if we discussed this in my Ready Room,"
the Captain recommended.  "Will?  Could you..."
    "It'll all be taken care of Captain," Commander Riker
weakly replied.
    Adama nodded at the officers and the two men headed for a
turbolift that would take them to the Enterprise's Main Bridge.

                          -----

    In the Captain's small office on the Bridge, Adama slowly
walked over to the round, glass aquarium that protruded from the
wall.  He gazed with fascination at one of the beautiful fish that
swam within, its long, fragile fins waving lazily in the water.
    "What sort of water creature is this?" he managed.
    Glad to be momentarily distracted, Picard gratefully
replied, "That larger one is a Butterfly fish and I believe there
is an angelfish in there as well, Commander."
    "Angelfish.  How apt a name.  So peaceful and graceful
they appear to be."
    "Actually, that common name for the species is more of a
misnomer than you might expect.  In reality, those creatures can
become rather vicious if disturbed," Picard noted.
    "I see.  Once again, appearances can be deceiving.  I have
come to learn that hard lesson far too often," Adama confessed.
    "As have I, Commander."
    Adama suddenly looked up at Jean-Luc Picard and said,
"Captain, when word of this reaches the Fleet..."
    "I understand Commander, but I beseech you not to call a
halt to the talks.  In fact, now more than ever, the two of us will
need to work together to help push these negotiations forward.  I
have called upon some of my best people to get to the bottom of
this unfortunate incident."
    "Captain, you don't understand.  The decision may not be
mine to make.  When word of this reaches certain Council Members,
they are sure to demand that we immediately end any relationship we
now have with the Federation.  They will insist that we be returned
to our convoy.  Trying to persuade them otherwise will  be very difficult,
if not impossible."
    "We should still plan to convene the Conference on the
planet surface, regardless.  I believe that the beauty and calm of
Pacifica will help provide an atmosphere for cooler heads."
    "I give you my word Captain, as a Warrior, that I will try
my best to keep these negotiations on track.  I cannot promise you
success but I will make every effort."
    "That effort will be greatly appreciated Commander."

                          --o--

    The senior staff of the Enterprise sat solemnly around the
Conference table in the Main Observation Lounge, just off the Main
Bridge.  Jean-Luc Picard briskly entered the room and took his
place at the head of the table.  He folded his hands in front of
him in an effort to appear calm and in control in front of his staff.
He wasted no time getting to the business at hand.
    "Mr. Worf, what have you found so far?"
    Worf suddenly sat up straight and began his briefing.  "We
have searched the entire Lounge on Deck 6 for any evidence of the
weapon that may have been used in the attack."  He carefully folded
back the cloth-wrapped object that lay on the table beside him.  He
then held the object up for all to see.
    Picard immediately recognized it and stifled a gasp.
    "We have confirmed this to be a Cardassian knife.  The
geologists have also confirmed the blade to be made of gemonite."
Worf noted.
    "Cardassians?  Why would the Cardassians be involved?"
Riker asked.
    "Perhaps they are interested in making an allegiance with
the Colonists and they wished to disrupt the Federation
negotiations," Data suggested.
    "But if that were the case, why would they so obviously
leave evidence behind to implicate themselves?" Picard asked.
    "Something's not right.  None of this makes any sense," Riker said.
    "Indeed Number One.  Worf, have you had the blade handle
analyzed for DNA  signatures?" Picard queried.
    "Aye sir."
    Crusher immediately piped in, "According to our analysis of
the weapon AND of the entire room, we came up empty Jean-Luc.
Nothing.  The only DNA present in that Lounge was that of the two
victims and of the Council President's assistant."
    "Hmmm... another twist."
    "Which suggests that maybe one or the other of the victims
initiated the attack," Geordi speculated.
    "Perhaps," Data injected.  "But if you look at the
condition of the Admiral's body, it would suggest that the Council
President would have had to have carried out the bulk of the
assault.  However, it seems rather unlikely that the Council
President could have had access to such a rare, Cardassian knife."
    "True.  It seems that there may be more than meets the eye
here.  Doctor, what have your autopsies uncovered?" Picard asked.
    "Well, unfortunately nothing beyond the cause of death
being due to severe trauma from the stab wounds and extreme loss of
blood.  Other than that, I've turned up nothing out of the ordinary,"
Crusher reported.
    "This is getting worse and worse.  Why would someone kill
two Chief Negotiators and then leave a Cardassian weapon in the
room?  Doctor, did you attempt to take air samples to see if there
were any `mind-altering' drugs introduced?" Riker asked with
frustration.
    "Yes.  We found no sign of chemical contamination, either
in the room or in the victim's blood stream," the Doctor reported.
    "Doctor, were you able to confirm that the wounds were
actually made with THAT knife?"
    "As best I could.  I confirmed the DNA patterns of both
men from the blood we found on the blade," came the reply.  "The
entrance and exit wounds were typical of what you would expect from
that type of knife."
    "Counselor, can you offer us any additional insight?  Perhaps,
bad feelings between our guests on board?
    "Captain," Troi said softly, "I... I'm sorry.  I still feel their
pain in my mind.  It was really emotionally draining for me.  The only
thing that I can add right now is the fact that I DID sense something,
something that I can't quite put my finger on, a sort of 'tugging' in my
mind, just prior to the attack."
    "Can you describe that 'something' in words Deanna?" Riker
asked, with concern.
    "Oh, I don't know... anger?  Malice?  Something that was
evil and ugly perhaps?  It really didn't make any sense, especially
since the overall mood on the ship has been one of anticipation and
excitement over the Conference.  That's all I can recall."
    "You weren't at the banquet when this happened," Picard noted.
    "No, I was in my quarters," came the reply.
    "Do you recall seeing anyone during the time after you
left Ten Forward?" Data asked.
    "Actually yes, as a matter of fact.  I briefly shared a
turbolift with Ambassador Marks.  If I remember correctly, he got
on at Deck 9 and... I think he requested 'Deck 6' as his
destination."
    "Very well.  Thank you Counselor," Picard responded.
    "Captain, may I suggest that we brief Commander Adama and
the others on what we have found so far?" Data suggested.
    "Yes Data, I was about to summon them here.  Number One,
could you escort Commander Adama and his staff here?  Also have
Ambassador Troi and Ambassador Marks meet me separately in my
Ready Room at around twenty-two hundred and twenty-two thirty hours."
    Riker abruptly stood and replied, "Aye sir."

                          -----

    Captain Apollo began to feverishly pace around the Main
Observation Lounge in frustration after hearing a summary of the
incident.
    "I don't get it.  With ALL the technology that you have on
board this ship... and you're telling me that you can't figure out
what happened?  Do you realize what will happen when the full
Council hears about this?  Let alone what the people will say.."
Apollo warned.
    "Apollo, please..." Adama pleaded.
    "No Father.  I don't think you people understand..."
    "Captain," Picard began, "your Council President and one
of my best friends were murdered.  Now it is our job to find out
the how and the why."
    "You mentioned something about some `Cardassian' weapon.
We've never heard of any `Cardassians'.  I suggest that you begin
your investigation with them."
    "I assure you Captain, that we have," Picard responded,
with slight irritation.
    "Well, I think that the first thing that needs to be done
is to round up any Cardassian aboard this..."
    "We DO NOT have ANY Cardassians aboard THIS ship," Worf harumphed.
    "Captain Apollo, the Federation has been at war with the
Cardassian Empire for a number of years.  We have only recently
signed a cease-fire with them," Data offered.
    "Well then there's your answer Captain Picard.  Obviously
some Cardassian had something against your friend and
unfortunately, the Council President was in the wrong place at the
wrong time," Apollo concluded.
    Picard sighed at the young man and briefly glanced over at
his father, who silently expressed similar disapproval of his son's
conclusions.  The Enterprise Captain then said, "I'm afraid it's
not as simple as that Captain.  We were unable to confirm ANY third
party being responsible for what happened."
    What do you mean?  Surely...?"
    "Captain, what we are saying," Crusher added, "is that there
were no fingerprints on the knife.  In fact there were no traces of
ANY presence in that room during the time of the incident, other
than the Admiral and the Council President."
    "Which means...?"
    "Which means, Captain, that either the two men somehow
killed each other, leaving no trace of their actions, or some
entity that our technology cannot detect, may be responsible for
what has occurred," Data concluded.

                          --o--

    Captain Apollo was raving mad when he finally reached his
father's quarters.
    "Father, how can you believe them?  How can you trust
them?" he asked.
    "Apollo, why are you so quick to blame them?  I'm
convinced that they are doing as much as humanly possible to find
out what happened," Adama replied.
    Incredulously, Apollo continued, "Is it just me, or do I
get the feeling that everyone's ignoring the obvious. If you find
a weapon that belongs to some alien race, ESPECIALLY one who
was previously at war with you, how can you discount that?
Please Father, help me to understand."
    "Yes they found the weapon, but how can you be so sure
that it wasn't placed there as a means to confuse us?  Note that
they were unable to find any evidence that the knife was handled by
any known species in this area of the universe."
    "But they DID confirm that the men were killed with THAT knife!"
    "If you listened carefully, the Doctor merely said that
their wounds were only `TYPICAL' of those that would be made from
a knife of `THAT kind'."
    "But she ALSO said that she confirmed their blood on the..."
    "Apollo, let me give you some advise.  I learned a long,
long time ago that in a situation such as this, mistakes are always
made.  The most perfectly executed plan will ALWAYS have some flaw,
some small detail that was missed.  Give them some time.  Have
patience.  Something will turn up."
    Resigned, Apollo said, "I sure hope so, because somehow I
keep getting the feeling that you may be next."

                          -----

    Jean-Luc Picard sighed as he peered out the window in his
Ready Room, hands twitching nervously behind his back.  He began to
feel exhaustion pressing heavily down upon him and also found
himself getting nowhere fast.
    Turning towards the woman who was seated stiffly, with
legs crossed, on the other side of his small conference table, he
beseeched, "Mrs. Troi, please..."
    "That's all I can remember Jean-Luc.  Really.  It was...
it was unbelievable fear and then the pain.  Oh, the pain," Lwaxanna
Troi groaned.
    "Alright Lwaxanna.  If there's anything, and I mean
ANYTHING else that you can recall, please, it is IMPERATIVE that
you contact me right away," the Enterprise Captain stated.
    "I will, Jean-Luc.  I wish I could... Wait... I think..."
    "Yes???"
    "I STILL can't put a finger on it Jean-Luc.  The only way
I can describe it to you is with an AWFUL term like... `evil'."
    "`Evil'?"
    "Yes, like someone or something was... was `evil'.  I know
what a `good-hearted' person feels like, but this was the opposite.
And it wasn't `evil' directed at a specific person.  It was just,
just... `evil'."
    "Thank you Lwaxanna.  I will file that bit of information
away.  Again, if there's anything else..."
    "Yes, I know where to find you."
    "Again, my thanks."

                          -----

    "Ambassador Marks, my Counselor recalled that the two of
you had briefly shared a turbolift, and you had requested `Deck 6'
as your destination."
    "That is correct Captain Picard.  I'm afraid that I have
no alibi, as my quarters are on that deck and I was alone."
    "I see, yet you boarded the lift from Deck 9," Picard
stated.
    "Correct again, Captain.  I had just left a private
meeting I had conducted with the Borellian Nomen delegation who, as
you may be aware, refuse to intermingle with the other Colonists."
    "Very well."
    "Captain,  you don't seriously think that I..."
    "Ambassador, truthfully, I don't know WHAT to think.  At
this time, I am only gathering together the facts as we find them.
When our investigation is completed, you will be informed of our
conclusions."
    "I understand Captain.  I hope that you are successful in
solving this."
    "I hope that I am too... Oh, and Ambassador, both
Ambassador Troi and her daughter described some of the emotions
they sensed during the time of the attack."
    "I see."
    "Did you sense anything out of the ordinary during that
time?  I have often relied on my Counselor as a Betazoid, to
provide me with what could be considered, useful, alternate aspects
of a situation.  Any additional information from you could prove to
be quite helpful," Picard noted.
    "I'm afraid that I can't help you too much there Captain.
Naturally, I sensed when the actual act occurred, but at the time,
I was asleep and it startled me awake.  I really don't recall very
much of what I might have felt."
    "Alright, thank you for your cooperation Ambassador."

                          -----

    Deanna Troi sat alone at a table in the corner of Ten
Forward.  In front of her was an untouched dish of chocolate ice
cream.  Silently, a man approached and she sensed who it was.
    "Hello Deanna."
    "Ambassador."
    "`Ambassador'?  Come on, no need to be formal.  Let's drop
the ranks.  It's after five and I'm off duty," Darrion Marks said.
    "Well, uh, I..."
    "Why do I scare you?"
    "Scare me?  What are you talking about?" Troi replied defensively.
    Marks began to chuckle and then he said, "You forget..."
    Changing the subject, Deanna said, "Um, was there
something you wanted Ambass..., uh, Darrion?"
    "Just wanted to chat.  In my line of work, I rarely get
the chance to just sit down and talk with another Betazoid,
especially one who's in my age group."
    "That's a shame," the Counselor remarked.
    "And what about you?  Don't you miss being around other
Betazoids your own age?"
    "Well, as busy as I've been, I really never thought about
it.  I HAVE been around several Betazoids, whenever they've come on
board, and I do make it a point to visit Betazed whenever I get a
chance."
    "But it's not the same, is it?"
    "Darrion, what are you getting at?"
    "Nothing.  Like I said, I just wanted to chat."  He then
stood up and began to walk away.
    Deanna suddenly began to feel a flood of sadness coming from him.
    "Wait..."
    "Listen, um, I'm sorry, okay?  I'm sorry I disturbed you.
I guess I have this tendency..." Marks began.
    "No, I'M sorry.  It's MY fault.  Maybe it's just that I'm
still upset over what happened on the ship.  I can still feel the
pain in my mind," Deanna admitted.
    "As do I.  I'm still shaking.  I just wanted some company,
with one of my own.  As a full Betazoid, I really got hit.  You're
lucky you're only half..."
    "How did you know?  I mean..."
    Marks momentarily hesitated and then replied, "Uh, I heard
it from some of your crewmates.  I also sensed that you weren't,
well...  Anyway, you want a drink or something?"
he quickly said, while signaling a waiter.  "Looks like we're both
suffering from insomnia."

                          -----

    Lwaxanna Troi was propped on her sofa, reviewing
information on a large thin padd.  As she carefully scrolled
through the data, her door chime sounded and she replied in a
sing-song voice, "Come in."
    Commander Adama stepped inside and politely said, "Hello Lwaxanna."
    With a big smile, the Betazoid exclaimed, "Why Commander
Adama, please come in."  She stood up and moved to guide him to a
chair.
    "I just stopped by to see how you were, especially after what has
happened."
    "Oh how sweet of you.  Come sit down, let me get you
something.  Would you like some tea?" Lwaxanna offered.
    "Tea would be fine," was the reply.
    As Lwaxanna was programming the replicator, she began to
speak.  "You know, that's not LIKE me."
    Confused, Adama asked, "What's not like you?"
    "Oh... allowing myself to free-float with my empathy like
that.  I've had some bad experiences in the past so I usually
maintain SOME measure of thought-blocking at all times."
    "Lwaxanna, I'm not that familiar with full telepaths or empaths.
I admit that I do possess a small amount of telepathic and telekinetic
ability, which I developed through vigorous training, but how exactly
does your telepathy work?  Do all of your kind possess such an
ability?"  He paused momentarily and then said, "Forgive me my
hesitation at times.  To me, you appear so Human, yet I know that
you are not."
    Mrs. Troi smiled at the comment as she handed the
Commander a cup filled with a hot, fragrant liquid.  "That's quite
alright, Commander.  Around here, Humans seem to have the upper hand.  The
tendency to confuse the two species is very common.  Now... to answer your
questions with regard to Betazoids and telepathy... Yes, most if not all of
us possess some degree of telepathic and empathic ability however, to describe
how it works to a non-telepath may be difficult.  Suffice it to say, all I know
is that it just..." She threw her hands in the air.  "Works!"
    "Perhaps I should clarify my question.  Must you be in
close, physical proximity to `feel' or `know' what another thinks?"
    "Oh heavens no, Adama!  If I concentrate hard enough, I
can sense someone's thoughts and feelings, even when they are many
kilometers away."
    "I see..."
    "For instance, I have sensed that your daughter is not too
pleased with our... well, our `friendship'."
    Suddenly Adama placed his cup down on the coffee table and
exclaimed, "Athena?  What do you mean?"
    Lwaxanna gave Adama a sly smile and then she stood up and
walked over to her desk.  She placed the padd that she had been
reviewing in an open slot in the holder and retrieved a new data
padd.  She walked back towards the table, sat back down on the sofa
and said, "Just what I said, Commander.  Now let me see..."  She
tilted her head slightly and looked up at the ceiling.  "It seems
she feels that too many women have been hanging around you lately
and are probably more interested in your inheritance than in your
mind.  I BELIEVE, that's what she thinks."  She then smiled again
while shifting her black eyes towards his brown ones.
    "Lwaxanna," Adama began, "what you are suggesting is..."
    "The truth, and you know what?  What grieves me even more
is that MY daughter feels the same way about me..."
    "YOUR daughter?  You mean... Deanna?"
    "I'm afraid so Adama.  Ever since my husband died, she's
been somewhat protective over me, as if I couldn't choose my own
mates," the Betazoid remarked.
    "I see.  Perhaps telepathy is not as advantageous as I thought."
    "Why do you say that?"
    "Sometimes, I think that the thoughts and feelings of
others are best left private," Adama replied with sadness.
    "I agree, and not that I purposely monitor very waking
thought of every individual I come in contact with.  It's just that,
when you meet someone new, not only can you see and hear
them, but you can feel them as well.  Without the telepathy and the
empathy, the person is only two-dimensional, but with it... they are
whole, complete... and DEFINITELY much more fun to be around!"
    "Lwaxanna, my time with you has been quite engaging and my
conversations with your daughter have been as well, however, I seem
to feel somewhat uneasy with your colleague."
    "My colleague?" Mrs. Troi inquired, knowing who he meant.
    "Yes,  Ambassador Marks."
    "Oh, I see.  Actually, I've known OF him only cursorily
from the past, but ever since I encountered him here, I have sensed
a... oh... what's a good word...?" she muttered, instinctively
waving her hands in the air.  "Duality!  Yes, I guess 'duality'
will suffice.  It appears that he also hides his thoughts very
thoroughly AND for extended periods of time.  That's not like a
Betazoid."
    "Well, all I can say is that despite his friendliness, there is
something about him, some primordial gut reaction I get from him,
that is familiar but that also makes me very wary.  I don't know."
He sighed heavily and then concluded, "I think I'm beginning to
ramble.  I had better turn in for the night.  Tomorrow will be a very
busy day."
    Adama abruptly stood and held both hands out to Lwaxanna.
She stood as well, walked over to him, and took the proffered hands.
    "Lwaxanna, I have enjoyed this evening with you and I hope
that we get the chance to have dinner some time."
    "Why Commander, I would be delighted!" she replied, blushing.
    "Very well.  Good night then."
    "Good night."
    Adama nodded in her direction, turned and stepped through
the cabin doors.  In the corridor, he spotted Darrion Marks
standing quietly nearby, reviewing the data padd he held in his hands.
                          -----

    Deanna Troi lay restlessly in her bed, clutching her pillow and
wishing for sleep to come.  She knew that she had a busy day ahead
of her and only four hours before it began.  She tried an often
prescribed method of relaxation by concentrating on relaxing each
part of her body and then moving on to the next part.  As she
slowly began to doze, she heard voices in her mind.  She quickly
blocked them out but several others remained.  Suddenly, the voices
switched to laughter, not joyous laughter, but maniacal laughter.
She grimaced in her half-conscious state, trying to stop the sinister
mirth that invaded her head.  The laughter continued to increase in
intensity until she abruptly awoke, shivering and drenched in sweat.
A small tear trickled down her cheek as she resigned herself to yet
another sleepless night.


                          C H A P T E R

                               III


    In the early morning hours of the opening day of the Federation
Membership Conference, the Grand Courtyard of the 'Trade Winds Resort
and Country Club' was buzzing with workers, who were busily preparing
the resort for the arrival of the representatives who had been transported
by the U.S.S. Enterprise.  Being one of the older sites on Pacifica's
western continent, 'Trade Winds' had recently completed extensive
renovations of it's facilities, and it now sparkled with the newness of all
the modern-day conveniences, while retaining the charm of it's original
'colonial era'-style Earth buildings.
    Sprawled along kilometers of unspoiled beach, the resort boasted
one of the most scenic views on the continent.  The Main Building lay
nestled at the top of a hill, over-looking the ocean to the west and
magnificent, snow-topped mountains some distance to the east.
    In it's glorious past, 'Trade Winds' hosted fabulous parties for the
wealthy from many Federation worlds and maintained an aristocratic
penchant for formal ritual.   The other so-called 'poorer cousin' resorts on
either side of 'Trade Winds', often played host to scores of weary travelers
and Star Fleet Officers, who sought the warmth and quiet of Pacifica for
vacations and shore leave.
    The current proprietor, Lani Mikoa, hurriedly moved from place to
place around the Main Building.  Her assistant, Kelly Takahito,
struggled to keep pace with her.
    "Those extra cabins MUST be ready for occupancy by this
afternoon!!", Lani Mikoa exclaimed.
    "But Ma'am ..." Kelly managed.
    "No 'but'... Ready!!  We must show that we can accommodate this
many people at one time.  It's been ages since we've had a major
conference and we need to justify the expense of the renovation."
    "But we are short-staffed," Takahito complained.  "Plus they want
us to assign the dwellings in groups, based on their planet affiliations.
That could take days to coordinate," Takahito protested.
    "Not days, hours!  I expect it to be done by this afternoon.  No
excuses," Mikoa ordered.
    Kelly sighed and looked up at the ceiling.  "It will be done on time.
I promise."

              -----

    The newly restored, open-air lobby was decorated with hanging
ferns, enormous torch gingers, fragrant plumeria, and brightly colored
orchids that hung from the lower branches of a live Banyan tree.  The tree
was the centerpiece of the resort and had been shipped there from Earth,
years and years ago.  Hidden within the elongated, dense roots that
sprung from tree branches suspended nearly five meters above the floor,
was a bar, fashioned from woven palm fronds and bamboo.  Lani Mikoa,
with checklist in hand, quickly inspected the bar and moved on.  The
Head Bartender, an older Andorian male, twitched his antennae slightly
in amusement, as he observed his boss's sudden burst of hyperactivity.
He slowly smiled and then resumed the inventory of his glassware.
    Despite the employees' irritation at having to work extra hours to
prepare, all were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the delegates in the
hopes of supplementing their meager incomes with the generous tips
that usually came with a conference of this magnitude.
    Kelly raced down an open-air corridor that overlooked the pool and
stopped just behind Lani.
    "Miss Mikoa," she said, never addressing her superior by first
name.  "We have opened the Southern Cove Complex to house the
additional representatives."
    "Good.  See to it that the rooms will be ready by this evening,
and Kelly," she added more warmly, "I know that the past few days
have been hectic for everyone, but I also know that of all my employees,
I can count on you to realize how important this is to me and to
yourself."
    "I understand.  This conference has really been a godsend."
    "Then you also understand that it must proceed without a hitch.
If we can prove to the Federation that we are capable of hosting a large-
scale event such as this, we can bring this site back from obscurity and
make it the way it used to be."  Lani Mikoa then began to reminisce, "I
remember when I first came here to work as a young and naive teenager
so long ago, and I remember how I so envied the guests, with their
personal servants and suitcases full of beautiful clothes and jewels.  I
wanted so much to be like them.  I remember a Deltan delegation who
stayed here once.  Needless to say, everyone at the resort was
swarming around them since they knew about how Deltans are with
respect to, well...", she remarked with embarrassment.
    "Yes," Kelly giggled.  "I know."
    "As I grew older, I learned everything I could about how things were
managed.  I saved all my earnings and I took classes.  When this facility
almost closed down from the neglect of the previous owners, I had the
money to buy the place.  Now I run it and I never want to see it go down
like it did, ever again."
    "Well, I'll do everything I can to help."
    "Thank you Kelly.  I'm counting on you," Lani replied.

              -----

    The main auditorium at the `Trade Winds' resort, designated the
`Hall of Nations', began to fill up with delegates, both from the Colonies
and the Federation.  A mood of pomp and pageantry filled the air as
members of the elite Colonial Color Guard and Drill Squad stood by to
await the signal to begin.
    Designees from the Enterprise and Galactica crews were in dress
uniform, and they freely mingled among the many representatives who
were present, making small talk and commenting on the lavishness of
the newly restored room.  A large, panoramic viewscreen behind the stage
displayed the twelve seals of the Colonial Government and the seal of the
United Federation of Planets, which was prominently fixed in the center.
A magnificent oak wood podium sat front and center of the stage, with a
UFP banner draped around it.
    The Governor of Pacifica approached the podium and began to
lightly tap the microphone to test the audio,  then began to speak.
    "Please delegates, take your seats.  We are ready to begin."
    As the participants began to move towards their seats, a drum
roll, soft and low, could be heard.  The audience quickly settled down.
After a brief period of silence, a trumpet salute brought forth the various
Color Guards, who stood silently at attention.  As the band began to play
a rendition of the anthem "Star of Kobol", the audience immediately
stood in deference.  The Colonial representatives held their right arms with
closed fist, across their chests in salute, as the Flag Bearers marched
onto the stage.  The Guard placed the twelve flags representing the
twelve Colonies, behind the rows of empty chairs set up on stage for the
chief dignitaries and speakers.  The band then played the Federation
anthem and a Federation Color Guard marched up and placed the
Federation flag in the center rear.  Finally, a line of dignitaries and others
filed onto the stage and took their seats.  With the pageantry now
completed, Governor Delaplane stepped forward and continued.
    "Delegates, Representatives, Conference participants and other
invited guests, as Governor of Pacifica, I welcome you to our planet.
We are honored to have been selected by the Federation, as the host for
this most important AND historic occasion.  As I know that you have
a very busy schedule ahead of you, I will make my remarks brief.
    Today, we have the coming together of a people, new to our region
of space.  These people, who have fled the tyranny of an enemy, have
come to find peace here, amongst us.  We would like to extend our
hand in greeting and we wish you success at this, the first round of
negotiations towards Federation membership.
    I would like to now turn the podium over to Captain Jean-Luc
Picard, Commander of the United Federation Starship Enterprise, who
has been asked to speak on behalf of the Federation membership, due
to his and his crew's close ties to the Colonial Government.  Captain
Picard."
    A round of applause accompanied Picard's short walk to the podium.
    "Thank you Governor.  I too, wish to keep my remarks brief, as I
know that the real business at hand will not be the glorious speeches we
give here today, but the dialogue that will soon occur behind closed doors
in negotiation.
    My role leading up to this day, has been a unique one.  One in
which my crew and I had the opportunity to encounter and assist a
previously unknown group of Human spacefarers, who were forced to
flee from their worlds, and who chose to seek out mine, the planet Earth.
Earth, known to most of us here as the seat of the Federation, was but
the stuff of myths and legends to them, yet fortunately, it has now been
confirmed to be genuine.
    And so, as their representatives and our representatives sit down
together to decide how best to proceed, I believe I speak for everyone in
attendance today, when I say that we wish you all the best in whatever
course you decide to choose.  Finally, I wish to personally thank
Commander Adama of the Battlestar Galactica, for his assistance, his
wisdom, and his perseverance in leading his people here, and making
the transition pleasant and productive.  Thank you."
    After another round of applause subsided, the Governor again
addressed the crowd.
    "Thank you Captain.  And now I would like to present to you the
man who has been asked to speak on behalf of the Colonists, the
Commander of the Colonial Fleet and it's flagship, the Battlestar
Galactica... Commander Adama."
    Adama stood and slowly walked up to the podium.  He looked
out at the hundreds seated in the audience and then took a deep breath
to choke back the tears that threatened to burst forth from his eyes.
    "Thank you Governor.  Delegates, Representatives, and guests,
I stand before you today in wonder. Forgive me my emotion but it IS
an emotional time for me and for my people."  He then paused, took a
deep breath, and continued.
    "We came here to you from a star system located a great
distance away.  A system comprised of twelve worlds, first colonized by
a parent race, who traveled there from a planet we call Kobol.   Our
civilizations grew and prospered, and were peaceful for many, many
generations.  Over the past thousand yahren, the 'yahren' being an
increment of time not too dissimilar to your 'year', we endured a war
with another race, a race of mechanical beings known as Cylons.  The
final blow to our people came at a time when we, seeking out peace for
so long, were tricked into believing that a truce was at hand.  During the
time of a supposed Peace Conference, we were betrayed by one of our
own, our worlds were rendered defenseless, and were subsequently
destroyed.
    When Captain Picard and his crew encountered us, in a place
not far from Earth, what he found were less than two-hundred and
twenty ships, all that was left of our people.  Today, we begin a process
of renewal and of rebuilding.  I know that this process will be difficult and
it will take many more sessions like this one, before we come to a final
resolution, but I believe within my heart, that we will succeed, despite the
setbacks that have or may occur.
    I wish to give my profound thanks to Captain Jean-Luc Picard and
his crew for their assistance while we were seeking our lost pilots and
later, when we came under attack by our enemy.  The Captain's
patience and understanding are qualities that I admire and appreciate
the most, and I hope to have the opportunity to work with him again and
often, in the future.
    We from the Colonies, are bound to follow the ways and wisdom
of our ancestors, set down in the 'Book of the Word', and so I shall
conclude my remarks with a most prophetic passage from that great
book:

       `And so it shall come to pass, that the people will suffer much
       turmoil and tribulation, and the ground will dry up and there will
       be no water for drink nor to bathe.  And a great famine will
       spread upon the land and the sun will burn like ten times one
       hundred suns, and the corpses shall line the streets from
       plague, and there will be much wailing.  But when these events
       occur, we shall take flight towards the heavens and we shall plant
       our seed in more fertile ground, so as to return again and multiply.
       Now a great war shall ensue and it will continue for ten times one
       hundred yahren, and the people will be sore afraid.  And the land
       will again be burned up and the people will be forced to flee.
       Their journey will be difficult, but salvation shall be had for all,
       for the people will come together with the lost Thirteenth tribe,
       their brethren, and they will rejoice in the streets.  But the people
       must endure one last great battle, to test their resolve, as there
       will be much death and destruction, since the enemies are
       strong and they are many.  But they will emerge victorious, for
       they will join together with their brethren from the planet Earth
       and they will once more spread their seed in fertile soil amongst
       the stars, in peace, for all eternity.  May the Lords of Kobol smile
       upon you as you read these, their holy words, given to me, a
       Prophet of Kobol.'

    On behalf of the Council of Twelve, I wish to again offer my sincere
appreciation for the assistance that we have received from the Federation,
and I want to again single out Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship
Enterprise, for his graciousness and hospitality during our time spent
with him and his crew.  Thank you."
    With that, the audience rose to its feet to give Adama a rousing
standing ovation.  The Galactica crew were clapping the loudest, as
tears streamed down their cheeks.  Adama moved back towards his
seat, with moisture forming in his eyes.  Picard reached to shake his
hand and then instinctively reached around to fully embrace Adama
warmly.  The two men held each other tightly and were finally surrounded
by the dignitaries on the stage.

              --o--

    Athena, Cassiopeia, and Sheba strolled through the Grand Lobby
of the 'Trade Winds' resort and were awed by the many different species
who gathered there.  They slowly walked towards the bar that was
nestled inside the roots of the Banyan Tree.
    Two Ferengi, who appeared to be arguing back and forth with each
other, suddenly turned around, jumped off their stools, and began to leer
at the women.
    "Females..." one proclaimed.
    "HUMAN females," the other clarified, as he stepped towards them
and offered them his stool.
    "I don't think that all three of us can fit on that single stool,"
Cassiopeia quipped.
    "Why... then you can sit on my lap," the other Ferengi giggled,
while slowly circling Athena.
    "What ARE you?!" Athena asked, with disgust.
    "They are Ferengi," the Andorian bartender replied, "and they were
about to leave."
    "But..." one of the Ferengi began.
    "NOW!" the Andorian thundered, his antennae now pressing close to
his head.
    "Yes... yes, uh, of COURSE we were going to leave.  In fact, uh,
we are leaving RIGHT now!!!", the companion noted, while grabbing the
other's ear and pulling him away.
    "Gee thanks," Sheba responded.
    "My name is Altan.  What would you ladies like to have?"
    The three looked at each other with confusion.  Then, Cassiopeia
replied, "How about some Earth champagne... from France," she hastily
added, vaguely remembering what she had the last time she was in Ten
Forward aboard the Enterprise.
    "Very good.  And the rest of you?"
    "The same," Sheba answered.
    Athena nodded her approval as well.
    "Well, looks like our semi-furlon has started off on an interesting
note," Cassiopeia observed, as she looked around at the flowers draped
above her.
    "Interesting?  You call this interesting?  STRANGE is more like it,"
Sheba replied.
    "What HORRID creatures.  They remind me of a guy I knew back
in grade school," Athena recalled.
    Sheba and Cassiopeia began to giggle.
    "Really," Athena continued.  "It's the truth!" she insisted.
    "If I saw something like THAT in grade school, I'd..." Sheba began.
    "Here you go ladies.  One for you... and one for you... AND one for
YOU," Altan said.  "Would you care for anything else?"
    The women simultaneously replied, "No, no thanks."
    The Andorian slowly smiled and walked away.
    "You know, that's the SECOND blue person I've seen today.  I
found out that the ship's barber is something they call a 'Bolian' and
he's blue too.  I wonder what THIS guy is?" Sheba remarked.
    "An Andorian," answered a male voice from behind them.
    Darrion Marks slipped up to the bar and smiled at the Galactica's
Officers.  "They are one of the earliest species that the Federation
encountered."
    "Interesting," Sheba responded.  "You seem to know a lot about
the different aliens around here."
    Marks chuckled and said, "Of course.  Every Ambassador has to
have at least a cursory knowledge of most, if not all the members of the
Federation.  Hell, we end up having to sit in boring meetings with them
all the time, anyway!"
    "Well, there's something about that 'Andorian' that's kinda sexy,
the way his white hair contrasts with his blue skin..." Cassiopeia
snickered.
    "Yeah," Athena added, "and those, those 'things' that look like,
well, like antennas..."
    "They ARE antennae," Marks replied.
    "Oh," was the response.
    "Listen, any of you ladies interested in going to the hula show
this afternoon?"
    "Hula?" Sheba queried.
    "Oh, it's an ancient Earth dance show, very exotic."
    "Now THAT sounds exciting," Cassiopeia exclaimed.
    "Cassiopeia, why don't you bring Starbuck along?" Sheba recommended.
    "Why?" was Cassiopeia's reply.
    "Well... never mind."
    "Ambassador, tell me what time and I'll be there," Cassiopeia offered.

              --o--

    Beverly Crusher and Deanna Troi leisurely walked along the
shopping arcade that circled the main pool of the 'Trade Winds' resort,
with bags of purchases held tightly in hand.  They stopped briefly in front
of a small booth that displayed tiny bottles of perfume and jars of exotic
herbs.  The old Bajoran woman behind the counter smiled slightly, as
the two Star Fleet Officers surveyed the display.
    "Do you wish me to read your pagh today ladies?" the woman asked.
    "'Pagh'?" Crusher repeated.
    "Your life-force, Commander," the woman answered.
    "Well," Beverly responded, "I don't know.  I think my `life-force' is
just fine, Miss...?"
    "Jaina Marroc," the Bajoran replied, "and you, Betazoid, have you
ever had YOUR pagh read?"
    "Um, no, I'm afraid I haven't," Deanna admitted.
    "Your calm speech betrays your true state of being," the woman
then observed.
    "I... I didn't get much sleep last night," the Counselor noted with a sigh.
    "Give me your ear," Jaina Marroc demanded.
    "My what?  My ear?"
    "It is the window to your pagh," she explained.
    Troi looked over at Crusher and Crusher returned an 'I don't know
what she's talking about' look.  Troi then sighed again and stepped
forward, towards the Bajoran.
    The woman reached up and pinched Troi's right ear, causing the
Betazoid to wince at the pressure.  The Bajoran snapped, "Be relaxed.
Do not block your thoughts, Betazoid."
    A little irritated at the woman's rudeness, Troi took a deep breath,
closed her eyes, and attempted to clear her mind.  Jaina Marroc inhaled
deeply, with eyes closed, and gradually slipped into an almost trance-
like condition.  Suddenly she screamed as if in pain and quickly
withdrew her hand from Troi's ear, as if it were on fire.  The Bajoran
stood shaking, only slightly more than Deanna and Beverly were, after
the unexpected outburst.
    "Evil!" the woman shrieked.  "Evil all around," she added.  She
looked over at Deanna with horror and said, "You must protect yourself.
Do not be deceived..."
    Confused, Troi replied, "What are you talking about?"
    "It is circling you.  It is everywhere.  Here, wear this..."  She
handed Troi a fine gold chain with a small amulet on it.
    "What is this?" Deanna asked, taking the small chain and
holding the amulet close to try to read the inscription.
    "It will protect you from..."
    "Protect her from what?" Beverly injected.
    The woman sat down again and closed her eyes.  She refused to
speak any more.
    "Come on Deanna.  Let's just go..." Crusher said, as she grabbed
Troi's arm and tried to lead her away.
    Troi stood silently looking back at the woman and then down at the
necklace, as she sensed the intense fear that now radiated from the
Bajoran's mind.  She barely heard Beverly Crusher's pleas.
    "Deanna, come ON!" the Enterprise Doctor begged, finally able
to drag Deanna away from the table and towards another.

              -----

    That evening, Commander William Riker leaned back in his lounge
chair, with feet up and eyes closed.  He struggled to purge from his mind,
any thoughts of the horror from the night before.  Like his colleagues, he
felt that he desperately needed a break from the intensity of the
investigations of the murders.  As he began to doze, the door chime
sounded.  Startled, he instinctively responded, "Come."
    Ambassador Marks tentatively entered the room and looked around
in fascination.
    "Uh Ambassador, what can I do for you?" Riker groggily asked.
    "Hmmm.  I figured you'd forget," Marks replied.
    "Forget?  Forget what?"
    "We had a poker date."
    "Poker.  Oh yeah well... we canceled that after what happened
last night.  I think all of us are pretty wiped out."
    "I see."
    "Sorry, I should have let you know beforehand," Riker said
apologetically.
    "Well, I never thought that I'd ever hear THE William T. Riker pass
up a golden opportunity," Marks baited.
    "Huh?"
    "How about you and me.  One on one."
    The First Officer managed to sit up slightly and found that his
muscles had become stiff in the short time he had been in the chair.
"I may have to pass on that, Ambassador," he said with a groan, as he
tried to shift to a more comfortable position.
    "Call me Darrion.  'Ambassador' is too stuffy."
    "Good enough... Darrion.  Maybe some other..."
    "WHAT other time Commander?  I think it'll provide us with a
welcome, therapeutic distraction.  As you might know, I was affected by
what happened as bad as anyone else.  At least a good game of poker
will take the sting out of the bite."
    "Well..." Riker began.
    "Oh come on Commander, just a few hands.  I have a couple of techniques I
want to try out.  They're some of the moves I saw Arjus use."
    "`Techniques'?  You mean cheating," Riker quipped, as he now
moved to sit completely upright.
    "Well, now that's a little harsh..."
    "Harsh?  No matter what you call it, it's STILL cheating."
    "You game?"
    With resignation, Riker said, "Okay, let's see what you got."
    The two men set up the table and played several rounds.  After
awhile, the Betazoid remarked, "So what ever happened at the 'Battle of
the Century' or was it the 'Yahren' or something like that?"
    "The what?"
    "You know.  That marathon poker game I heard you guys had
against the Galactica crew."
    "Oh yeah.  Boy, talk about a crazy night!  I NEVER thought that
Data had it in him.  He actually bluffed his way through to the very end
of that last hand.  I mean, Lieutenant Starbuck almost gave up the shirt
on his back believing that Data had something in his hand!  I guess
we're fortunate that we don't have an overwhelming need for money,
otherwise if I were Data, I'd be sweatin'!" Riker noted.
    "Would you bet everything if the reward was high enough?"
Marks inquired.
    "I think I HAVE bet 'everything', at some point in my previous
young and naive days," Riker admitted with a chuckle.
    "I mean, would you REALLY bet EVERYTHING."
    "Like what else?"
    "Hmm.  Perhaps, your service instead of money."
    "My service?  My service for what?" Riker asked with a little
apprehension.
    "Oh, your assistance in helping me do some things."
    "Marks, you're hedging.  What kinds of things are you talking
about?"
    Feigning embarrassment, the Ambassador said, "Actually, I need
your advise on talking to... well actually, dealing WITH certain people.
You seem to know most of the crew on board this ship, at least to a
certain degree.  I'd like to talk to some of them.  There may be a lot of
interests that they have in common with me.  I don't often get the time
to socialize that much."
    "I see, and if I win?"
    "If you win, then you get to keep this..." Darrion Marks quickly
replied, holding up a clear crystal with a tiny red object visibly lodged
within it.
    "What's this?" Riker asked while taking the crystal and turning
it around in his hands.
    "It's something I won from Arjus.  It's allegedly a Trellian healing
stone.  Supposedly, if you hold it tightly and concentrate, you can
actually heal injuries.  I believe your Captain is probably familiar with
the legend."
    "Interesting.  I never really had much of an interest in esoteric
objects like this, but... since you are a guest, I'll give it a try.
Besides, what could I possibly lose?"

              --o--

    Athena slowly walked down the corridor and stopped in front of
Deanna Troi's door.  She hesitated for a moment and then pushed the
button that sounded the door chime.
    "Come in," came a voice from within.
    Athena stepped forward to activate the door mechanism and then
peeped inside without entering.
    Troi sighed and responded, "Come on in Athena."
    "You're not busy, are you?  I didn't want to disturb..."
    "No, please come in.  Sit down," Deanna offered.
    Athena slowly walked over to a chair and eased into it.  The two
women then began to simultaneously talk.
    "Look, I'm..."
    "They both stopped short and began to laugh.
    "You go first," Troi said.
    "Okay.  I JUST wanted to say that I really acted like an
immature child the other night and I want to apologize," Athena
explained.
    "You?  I think that MY performance deserves an award!" the
Counselor admitted, with a giggle.
    "Deanna... I... well, I'm not sure you understand how I feel.  I
guess you can read my emotions right now, but I'm just trying to look
after my father, that's all.  I don't think that he's taking the time to take
care of himself like he should.  He and Apollo tend to go off on some
wild tangents sometimes, egging each other on, and... you know."
    "Yes, I know.  I feel the same way about my mother. I think...
I think maybe it's loneliness, PLUS she IS still going through 'the
change', which we on Betazed call 'the phase', and with Betazoids, it's
pretty rough," Deanna noted.
    "Yeah, I DEFINITELY don't look forward to THAT day," was
Athena's reply.
    "Well let me tell you something, with Betazoid women, it's worse
than you think."
    Really?  You mean like, real bad sweats and..."
    "I MEAN they get real..."  she bent over and whispered in Athena's
ear, "horny."
    Athena sat up and began to shake her head in confusion.
"Horny?  I'm not familiar ..."
    Deanna sighed and said, "Very sexually excited."
    Athena opened her eyes wide and exclaimed, "OH!"  She then
began to blush.  "Actually, maybe THAT might not be so bad after..."
    "UH, I don't think so," Deanna countered.  "Anyway, it's not that
I object to my mother and your father being together, it's just that...
well... she has a tendency to be a little pushy at times.  She can be
quite overwhelming."
    "I see.  Well, don't worry Deanna.  I think that if anybody can
handle her, my father can.  Besides, I think that he gets lonely, too.
Anyway, I'd rather have him with your mother than any one of those
witches from Virgo ANY day!"
    "Athena!!" Troi giggled.  "Now THAT'S no way to describe..."
    "It's true!  All they care about is his money.  It's really sad,"
Athena remarked.
    "Don't worry.  My mother has her own wealth and status, and if
she feels that your father can provide her companionship, even for a
brief period, then that's fine with me."  Troi paused and then looked at
Athena and added, "No hard feelings?"
    Athena stood up and joined Deanna on the sofa, replying with her
trademark smile, "No hard feelings."
    They then sealed their agreement with an exaggerated handshake.
    "Hey, the 'girls' are getting together again this evening.  Wanna
stop by?" Athena offered.  "We want to talk about doing something...
with Data... remember?"
    "Sure.  Where?"
    "At Cassiopeia's on Deck 9.  In about a centaur."
    "Centaur?  Athena!" Deanna exclaimed.
    "Geez, I don't know!  I think you call it an 'hour', but a centaur
seems LONGER than that!"
    "Okay, make it an hour and a half then," was the reply.

              -----

    "So I say we just DO IT!" Cassiopeia giggled to the three other
women in her quarters.
    Deanna Troi began shaking her head 'no', while smiling with
embarrassment.
    "Oh come on Deanna, with the Conference going on, it's vacation
time!  We DID promise to do SOMETHING together and I think that now
would be the PERFECT time.  At least it'll help get your mind off of what
happened.  Besides, we made ALL those plans about you know who,
so LET'S DO IT!" Sheba pleaded.
    "Yeah, I think it would be fun!" Athena added.
    "By the way, we're missing one of our partners in crime.  Where's
Beverly?" Cassiopeia asked.
    The door chime sounded.
    "Come in," Cassiopeia responded.
    "There we go!  The five conspirators are all together and ready for
action!" Sheba giggled.
    "Did I miss anything?" Beverly Crusher innocently asked.
    "Not really," Athena piped up.  "We were JUST starting to talk
about what we were going to do."
    "Good," Crusher remarked, as she propped herself in a comfortable
position on the sofa and then leaned forward in anticipation.  "So what do
we have so far?"
    "Well, Deanna was considering welshing out on us but..."
Cassiopeia began.
    Troi shot her a 'oh no you don't' look.
    Cassiopeia continued with, "She did suggest we try what she says
is sort of a tradition on some of Earth's islands.  What did you call it?
A luau?"
    "Ooooooo PERFECT!" Crusher replied with excitement.  I have
just the right outfit!  We can even make leis with real flowers.  That'll be
wonderful!"
    "Exactly what do you do at one of these 'luaus' and how would
Data fit in to this plan?" Athena asked.
    The Chief Medical Officer looked over at Deanna and quickly
turned away blushing.  "Stick with me ladies, this is guaranteed to
be a time we shall NEVER forget!  But we'll need Will Riker's help."

              -----

    Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge and Lieutenant
Commander Data were hunched over an Engineering panel, each
methodically pressing various areas on the panel's surface in an effort
to elicit from the ship's computers, the answers to their various queries.
    "Geordi?" Data began.  "Do you find me... boring?"
    The now baffled Chief Engineer looked up at him and replied,
"What kind of question is that?"  He then resumed his review of a
screenful of numbers.
    "I have noted that ever since we made contact with the Humans
from the Colonial Fleet, most of them seem to, well... avoid me," the
android responded.
    "Why do you say that?" Geordi asked while picking up a
diagnostic padd and entering figures into it.
    "Let me give you an example.  Early this morning, I was talking
to some of the farmers from the Agro ship.  During our conversation,
I found that they appeared to be physically uncomfortable.  They
suddenly interrupted me and stated that they had to leave at that
precise moment."
    "Well, what were you talking about?"
    "I was explaining to them how they could better achieve an
optimum soil composition by introducing certain percentages of
decomposed..."
    "Whoa Data.  Hold on.  First off, how did you meet these people?"
Geordi asked.
    "I believe that they were being given a tour by the Department
Head of the Botany Lab as a prelude to their negotiation session."
    "And how did the subject of soil composition come up?"
    "Actually, it did not," the Second Officer admitted.  "When I
ascertained their occupation, I chose to discuss some of the aspects
of it with them.  Is that not the proper way to proceed?  I have found that
Humans seem to enjoy discussing those subjects that interest them."
    "Geordi smiled, placed a data chip into a slot and then said, "And
how do you know that 'soil composition' would interest them?"
    "I assumed that..."
    "There's your problem Data.  You 'assumed'.  You see," he began
to explain, "to many people, their work or occupation may be more
palatable to them than to others but it may not be a subject they always
enjoy discussing."
    Confused, Data remarked, "I do not understand.  You are
suggesting that some Humans do not like the work that they do."
    "Well, not really, although you do run into people who aren't
exactly in an occupation that they are particularly fond of.  I guess
the best way to describe it is to say that, well... that many times we
will 'tolerate' our jobs but we might not be head over heels about it.  It's
just a job, you know?"
    Data began to frown as he asked, "But then, if the 'job' as you say,
does not bring you pleasure, then why continue to do it?"
    "I can't answer that one Data.  Maybe... maybe it's because some
people are good at what they do and don't mind doing it.  But, when
they're done for the day, they just want to relax.  You know, leave the
talk about work at the work site.  I guess they don't like to bring their jobs
home with them."
    "I see.  If that is the case, then how will I ever be able to predict
whether a person fits the criteria you just described?"
    LaForge put the padd down and then looked directly at his friend.
"Now THAT'S a tough one Data and I really can't help you there.  It's just
a matter of trial and error.  I guess you have to probe them.  Ask
questions.  See what types of things THEY want to talk about."
    "I have tried that in the past Geordi.  I still find that my
conversations and inquiries are abruptly cut off and I am left 'holding'
the proverbial 'bag', as it were."
    Geordi reached over to another panel and pressed the surface a
few times.  "Well Data, you're gonna have to keep trying.  Proper social
etiquette doesn't come overnight.  It takes some practice.  Be patient."
    "I have all the patience in the world Geordi," Data noted while
resuming his diagnostic scans.  "In fact, I cannot grow impatient,
however, I am striving to find more ways to appear.... normal."

              -----

    Later that evening, the two Senior Officers were deep in
conversation, as they walked down the corridor towards a turbolift.
    "Geordi, do you think that if I make it a point to attend more social
functions, I will be able to improve my `sense of timing'?" Data asked.
    "Sure Data.  As they say, `practice makes perfect'.  At least since you
have no emotions, you can't get insulted, so, I say go for it," Geordi replied.
    "Geordi, I have found that Human women tend to talk about
subjects that are quite different from those of Human men."
    "Don't I know it," Geordi LaForge mumbled, as the two stepped
in a turbolift.  "Deck 8," he then ordered.
    "Perhaps," Data continued, "I should endeavor to sit in on a
conversation with some of the..."
    "Uh Data," the Chief Engineer interrupted, "I don't think that
THAT'S a good idea."
    "But you said..."
    "Data, you don't have to sit in with women to learn how to talk
to them.  I doubt that you'd understand them anyway.  But then again,
look who's talking..."
    "Commander Riker has suggested that I start out 'innocent' and
then 'lay the sweet talk on them'.  I do not understand the full context
of that phrase," the Second Officer admitted, as the two stepped out of
the 'lift and began to walk towards Data's quarters.
    Geordi began to chuckle at the mention of Riker's techniques.
"Suffice it to say Data, he MEANS that women like to be flattered, you
know, told how beautiful they are and how wonderful it is to be with them,
stuff like that.  They prefer that men initiate the action."
    "I see.  Perhaps you can coach me on some typical phrases."
    The two stepped through the door of Data's quarters and Geordi
stopped in mid-step, opened his mouth wide in disbelief, and slowly
turned his head around to fully absorb what he saw.  "Whoa Data,
I... I think... it's... time... for me to leave!  I'll see you later!" he
stated, as he quickly spun around while stifling a giggle, and exited the
cabin.
    Data turned around in confusion and called after him.  "Geordi!
Wait!  Why are you..."
    "Hello Commander Data," a sing-song voice announced from the
bedroom.
    "Who is here?" Data asked with curiosity, while slowly walking
around his cabin, which had been transformed from a spare but
adequate set of rooms, into a tropical, floral fantasy.  Strings of
plumeria and ginger were draped around the walls.  Large palm fronds
were arranged in the corners.  Spot sat contently on the computer
workstation, licking her paws, and soft island music played in the
background.
    Cassiopeia, dressed in a deep blue and pink pareau, slowly
walked up to the confused android, placed a lei around his neck, and
gave him a light kiss on the cheek.  She then grabbed both of his hands
and guided him towards his bedroom.  There on the bed were four
women, lounging pleasantly, each dressed in a multitude of colorful
dresses, and each leisurely sipping frosty drinks.
    Deanna Troi stood up, sashayed over to the android, and cooed,
"Welcome to paradise, Mister Data."  She then placed a string of kukui
nuts around his neck and smiled.
    Totally perplexed, Data remarked, "Counselor, I do not understand.
According to Commander Riker, are not the men supposed to..."
    "Just relax Data, and enjoy yourself," Sheba replied as she moved
behind him to push him towards the bed.  "Don't worry about what
Commander Riker says..."

              -----

    "Ambassador Marks, you wished to see me?" Lieutenant Worf
inquired, as he stood outside of Darrion Marks' quarters.
    "Ah yes Worf, please come in."
    Worf entered the sightly darkened cabin and immediately spotted
a small table in the center of the room, decorated with flowers, a small,
scented candle, and two cups.
    "What is this?" he asked with confusion.
    Marks slowly smiled and began, "About ten years ago, I met your
brother Kurn at a small Klingon outpost near the border.  It must have
been right after I left Betazed and I decided that instead of looking for a
'real job', I wanted to 'see the galaxy'.  How naive.  Well, I signed onto
a freighter and one day, we stopped at a bar on this outpost and..."
    "Ambassador, this is really very interesting but... what is the
point?"
    "The point?  The 'point' IS, is that I got very drunk that night and
picked a fight with your brother. Needless to say, he was quite drunk
too..."
    Impatiently, Worf grumbled, "AND???!!"
    "And... well, having had some experiences with interesting fights
on that freighter, I successfully knocked your brother out."
    "YOU???" Worf said with disbelief. "THAT is impossible."
    "If you don't believe me, you can contact him this very minute.
But then again, I'm sure that he wouldn't admit it."
    "Even if I WERE to believe you, what does that have to do
with me?"
    "Well, let me finish the story.  After Kurn woke up and everyone
at the bar told him what happened, he decided to try and trick me into
partaking in the 'Tea Ceremony'."
    "Hmmm.  Clever.  And what happened next, being that for
Humanoids such as yourself, the 'Tea Ceremony' is fatal."
    "Ah, so I found out after drinking the damned stuff.  Unfortunately,
I almost died that night.  Fortunately, the Medical Official on the outpost
had the antidote."
    "And so you called me all the way to your quarters to tell me
this?"
    "Actually, I called you here to try my luck again.  You see, I have
never forgotten that night and so since then, I have slowly ingested the
poison over these past ten years, and I believe that I now have an
immunity to it.  So... for Kurn's sake, as I hear that he is now a member
of the Klingon High Council, I offer my congratulations to you, his elder
brother, in his place, and I wish to partake in the ceremony with you."
    "Hmmm," Worf replied, now impressed. "You are to be
commended."
    "Unfortunately, I don't have the proper flower to conduct..."
    "I have a supply.  I WILL return."
    "Excellent."


              C H A P T E R

              IV


    Early the next morning, the Enterprise barber was fuming.  His blue
face twitched in frustration, as he stormed down the hallway towards his
office.
    "Idiot!!!  Always late.  You can't find good hired help these days.
Can't come on time.  Here we had the PERFECT opportunity, with all
these dignitaries on board..." Mot mumbled to himself.
    He continued to ramble on until he reached the doors to his
grooming area.  Just as he stepped inside and was about to yell for his
assistant, Mot stopped cold and began to choke on the acrid smoke that
filled the room. He ran back into the corridor and punched a button on
the Comm panel.
    "Mot to Security, fire in the barber room.  I repeat, fire in the
barber room.  The fire suppression system has malfunctioned.
HURRY!"

              -----

    Sometime later, Jean-Luc Picard and Mr. Mot met in Captain's
Ready Room for a debriefing.
    "Please Mr. Mot.  Calm down."
    "Calm down?  CALM DOWN???  How can I calm down when one
of my assistants was killed.  KILLED!!!  No doubt by one of those, those,
what do they call themselves?  Colonists...?"
    Picard sighed and then responded calmly, "Mr. Mot, we don't
know that yet."
    "Hmph!  A fire.  A FIRE!  How could THAT have happened.  WHY
wasn't the fire suppression system operational?  Can you tell me that?
Can you?"
    "No Mr. Mot, not yet.  Please, we will have Mr. Worf's report
shortly."
    "Shortly?  That's what they all say.  You know, I remember that
time when I was on Seltrus IV and a similar thing happened.  You
realize, of course, that the Seltrans..."
    The door chime sounded, interrupting the barber's explanation.
    "Come," Picard quickly replied, thankful for the brief respite.
    Data, Geordi, and Worf entered the room.
    "Thank God," Picard mumbled imperceptibly.  "Gentlemen, what
have you found?"
    "YES gentlemen, what IS IT that you have found, being that I was
THIS CLOSE," the Bolian indicated with his forefinger and thumb,
"to DEATH!"
    Geordi looked over at the barber and mumbled, "Uh..."
    Worf turned his head and rolled his eyes.
    Data looked around at his colleagues and then proceeded to speak.
"Captain, we thoroughly searched the room and analyzed the computer
system in that entire section."
    Geordi followed up with, "Basically Captain, we took the whole
thing apart, piece by piece, and ran a complete diagnostic."
    "And what did you find?"
    Geordi started to speak and then hesitated, looking down at his
boots.
    Data proceeded with, "Nothing sir.  We found that all of the
computer systems, including fire control, was and still is functioning
properly in that area."
    "Then why didn't it work??" Mot exclaimed.
    "That, we do not know," Data replied.
    "Captain," Geordi began, "we did find another thing.  We tried
analyzing them but we're still unable to determine what they are.  Worf?"
    Worf then held up two round, transparent, cut-crystals.
    "Have you been able to determine their composition?" Picard
asked.
    "Analysis shows that they are composed of minerals that are
unknown to the Federation," Geordi replied.
    "We are now searching the databanks for substances from
non-Federation worlds," Data added.
    "I see.  Well keep at it.  You may also want to get Barclay involved in
rerunning the diagnostics on the..."
    The chime again sounded in the Ready Room.
    "Come."
    Captain Apollo and Lieutenant Starbuck entered the room.
    "Captain, Lieutenant, what can I do for you?" Picard inquired.
    "We heard that there was another incident," Apollo said tersely.
    "I'm afraid so.  We're still investigating it," was Picard's reply.
    "Captain Picard, perhaps they might know what these objects
are," Data suggested.
    "What objects?" Starbuck asked.
    Geordi took the crystals from Worf, walked over to the two
Colonial Warriors and said, "These.  We found them at Mot's."
    "Lemme see.  Hmmm... Those look like Borellian Laser Balls!"
Starbuck exclaimed.
    "Borellian Laser..." Mot began.
    Sighing, Apollo said, "The Borellian Nomen.  They are humans who
settled on a planet they called Borella, located near our star system.
Some of their delegates are aboard."
    "Are you sure?  So far we can't figure out what their composition
is OR what their purpose is, other than maybe for decorative use,"
Geordi explained.
    "Decorative use?  Not hardly Commander.  Here, let me show
you," Starbuck volunteered.  He took the two crystals, rotated them a
certain way, and then pressed them together.  The crystals remained
attached.  He then handed the pair back to Geordi.
    "Yep, those are laser balls alright.  Pretty nasty suckers too,"
Starbuck concluded.
    "What are they designed to do?" Geordi asked.
    "The Borellian Nomen use them as weapons, Commander.
When a Nomen pulls a pair from their belt, they are then activated,
somewhat like a grenade," Apollo said.
    "Somehow, these balls begin to build up energy and when you
throw them, they separate, forming a pretty intense laser beam between
them," Starbuck added.  "A beam strong enough to take out ANY person
in the way.  I know, I was almost 'in the way' of some of these babies not
too long ago," Starbuck admitted.
    "Strange.  Why would these 'Borellian Nomen' wish to attack Mr.
Mot's assistant?" Data asked.
    "I don't know Commander but I'll tell you this, the Nomen rarely
intermingle with anyone but themselves.  They consider themselves
`warriors' and consider the rest of us weak and not worth their time,"
Apollo noted.
    "Maybe they're on a blood hunt," Starbuck suggested.
    "Blood hunt?" Picard echoed with concern.
    "Captain, I really don't want to get into that now.  All I can say is
that I can't see any logic in suggesting that the Borellians would attack
someone aboard this ship.  They're nomads and if anything, they're also
very, very good about leaving no trace of their attacks.  They definitely
wouldn't go after someone and then carelessly leave their laser balls
around for someone to find later," Apollo stated.
    "That's for sure," Starbuck agreed.
    "Alright.  At least we do have part of this mystery resolved.  But I
will NOT rule anything out.  Captain Apollo, will you work with my Chief
Engineer to confirm these findings?" Picard requested.
    "If you feel that I can be of some help, I'll try to do the best I
can," Apollo replied.
    "Any assistance that you can provide will be much appreciated."

              -----

    The doors to the Holodeck slowly opened and Athena tentatively
stepped inside.  Her mouth gaped in wonder and she spun around to
take in the amazing site.
    "How can this be??  I mean, this is REALLY the Presidium on
Caprica!!" she exclaimed.
    "Actually, it's only a copy of it.  I was able to get the details on
how it looks from the databanks on the Galactica."
    "But everything is so real!!  The flowers, the flags, the breeze..."
    "Remarkable technology, isn't it?"
    "We had hoped and prayed that the people from Earth would be
advanced enough to help us fight the Cylons, but we NEVER imagined
anything like this."
    "Well, for your information, it's not just 'people from Earth',"
Darrion Marks commented, with a wry smile.
    "Huh?  OH!  Oh, I'm so sorry.  I keep forgetting that you're not from
Earth but from Betazed.  I can't help it.  You LOOK so Human!" Athena
stated apologetically.
    "Why not say that Humans look so much like us?" Marks quipped.
    Athena began to slowly grin as she said, "Hmmm.  I GUESS you
could think of it that way.  You know, it's been difficult for us since we
really haven't run into very many species other than Humans, except
for maybe the Cylons or the Orions.  I mean, during the war, most of
our resources were diverted to the war effort.  Our deep space
exploration program suffered immeasurably."
    "I can see that.  Anyway, come on, show me around this place.
You can also tell me some things about yourself and your friends."
    Totally enthralled, Athena complied.

              -----

    Jean-Luc Picard nervously paced back and forth across the floor
of his Ready Room while he listened to another report from his Senior
Command Officers.
    "So what we have is a handful circumstantial evidence and a
number of individuals or groups who appear to have motives for what has
occurred.  What we now need to do is to try to see if there is any
connection between these events, or somehow determine if each act
occurred by coincidence.  Comments?  Suggestions?" Picard asked.
    "Captain, after reviewing the evidence that we have found so far,
the only thing that I can conclude is that these acts may have been
carried out to precipitate or cause a desired effect," Data suggested.
    "How do you mean?"
    "Before the Conference began, there were some divisions of
opinion with respect to what the Colonists wished to do, but generally,
those differences could be worked out.  Now, there appears to be much
more turmoil and distrust, not only among the Colonial Representatives
but between the Federation and the Colonists.  There are groups who
are now openly voicing anti-Federation views and sentiments."
    "What sort of 'sentiments'? Picard inquired.
    "For example, " Data began, "some of the Federation delegates
have reported that some of the Colonial delegates have begun to accuse
Star Fleet of stalling the investigations, on purpose."
    "That's ridiculous," the previously silent Riker exclaimed.
    "They also believe that we are 'pointing the finger at them', as the
cause for what has happened.  Unfortunately, this has caused a rift in
relations between the two sets of delegates."
    "Wait a minute Data, that's a little vague," the First Officer
remarked.  "If someone wanted to disrupt the Conference, they would
usually do it for some concrete reason, with some goal in mind."
    "Commander, at the present time, the facts do not yet lead us to
that conclusion," Data protested.
    "Then, we will need to uncover more facts," Picard noted.
"Continue your investigations and have Mr. Worf interrogate the Borellian
Nomen delegation.  I believe that HE may be able to deal with them better
than we have."

              -----

    Jean-Luc Picard slowly walked through the doors of Ten Forward,
crossed the room, and finally eased onto a stool at the far end of the bar.
He then began to rub his temples to try to ease his throbbing headache.
    "Looks like you need some aspirin," a woman behind the bar
suggested.
    "Some what?"
    "Aspirin.  Isn't that what the people from twentieth century Earth
used to call their 'miracle drug'?
    "That's ridiculous."
    "Not to them it wasn't.  Oh, nowadays, we know that there's always
a physiological reason for a headache, and we can treat the problem at
the source.  But back then..."
    "Guinan..."
    "Here, try this.  It's guaranteed to cure the 'common headache',
or was that 'the common cold'?"
    "What is it?"
    "Oh, something I just whipped together.  A bit of Andorian brandy
mixed with Jandar nectar.  Actually, it's pretty good, if I must say so
myself."
    "You know, all these years I've considered myself to be very, very
fortunate.  I've come to believe that I am an open and honest individual.
When I was faced with a problem, I have always preached about the
limitless possibilities available to solve it.  But now, after what has
happened, I'm beginning to seriously doubt my abilities," Picard lamented.
    "YOU may WANT to believe that, but I for one, do not," Guinan
replied.
    "Guinan, somewhere, aboard this ship, either from the Federation
or from the Colonial Fleet is a killer, and so far I have been unable to
stop him or her.  The motive seems obvious.  Someone or something
wants to see these talks fail.  If I could just get some sort of lead,
uncover some clue that will link..."
    "Why would you say that sabotaging these talks would be 'the'
motive?" Guinan taunted.
    "Oh come on Guinan, I've been to the Galactica.  I've talked to
their representatives and their people.  Believe me, there's enough
discord there to spark a civil war at any time."
    "And so based on what you have observed, you came to the
conclusion that there is someone from the Colonial Fleet who is
responsible."
    "Guinan..." Picard warned.  "I see what you're driving at but...
I can't see where it would be in the Federation's interest to do something
like this.  What would be the gain?"
    "I see.  So then you totally rule out things that you haven't
observed."
    "What do you mean?"
    "I learned a long, long time ago to never accept the obvious.  I
will offer you some advice.  Sometimes some things or some situations
do not always appear to be what they really are."

              -----

    The Betazoid Ambassador stood shivering in his darkened cabin.
Across the room, a figure stood rigidly in the shadows.  The Ambassador
then began to speak.
    "What more do you wish me to do?  I have thus far done all that
you have asked."
    "It is not enough."
    "But..." Darrion Marks began.
    "Your methods are sloppy and easily traceable.  You have not
yet achieved the desired results."
    "But it's working.  I have become friends with all of them.  I've
told them lies and half-truths.  Now they have begun to distrust each
other and..."
    "We made a bargain.  I have upheld my end and you have not."
    "But what more can I do?  Soon they will be eating out of my
hand, begging for..."
    "YOUR hand??  THAT is the problem.  Since I have identified
the problem, I shall now move to correct it," the figure calmly stated.
    "What do you mean?" Marks exclaimed.
    "I WANT Picard.  HE has the confidence and the trust of the
people.  HE controls them.  I have dealt with Adama before and right
now, he is useless to me, for he has no power here."
    "But... I can't get to Picard.  He keeps sending me..."
    "I will continue in your place," the figure continued, ignoring the
man's pleas, "since you have so obviously missed the whole point."
    "Point?  What are you... ARGHhhh..."
    Marks began to choke and turn red in the face.  Then his eyes
began to bulge.  He dropped to his knees and tried to scream, but to
no avail.  He struggled to place his hands around the stranger's neck,
to choke the arrogance out of him, but failed miserably.  He finally fell
forward onto his stomach and closed his eyes tightly, the better to try
to imagine a more pleasant death than he was experiencing.
    The stranger slowly walked towards the body of Darrion Marks and
stood over it.  He then began to transform into a glowing cloud of light,
which hovered over the body briefly before merging with it.  Suddenly
Darrion Marks' eyes snapped open.

            --o--

    Lani Mikoa sat motionless in her small bungalow, staring blankly
into the flame of her candle.  She then closed her eyes and shivered as
she felt impending doom closing in all around her.  She suddenly stood
up and reached for a small Comm panel located on a nearby table.
    "Kelly?  Could you come right away?"
    Within minutes, Lani's assistant was knocking lightly on the door.
When Lani opened it, she watched as Kelly gasped slightly and then
quickly suppressed it.  No doubt, Kelly was reacting to her disheveled
state.
    "Please come in.  We must talk," Lani ordered.
    Kelly tentatively stepped inside the room and Lani motioned her
towards a chair.
    "The time is near.  You must carry on," Lani flatly stated.
    Kelly, now totally confused, exclaimed, "Miss Mikoa!  What has
happened?  What is wrong?"
    Lani sighed and turned her back to Kelly as she walked over to her
chair and began to stare into the candle flame again.
    "It is time.  He is here.  Whatever happens, I want you to remember
everything that I have taught you.  Will you promise?"
    Frustrated, Kelly exclaimed, "I don't understand, who is here?
What are you...?"
    "Don't question!  Promise!"
    "Yes, yes, I'll do anything.  You know that."
    "Good.  That will be all."
    "But..."
    "Leave me."
    Kelly slowly stood and began to feel the heaviness in the room.
She swallowed hard before nodding her head at her boss, and then she
turned and walked towards the door.
    "Kelly?  One other thing."
    Kelly halted and turned to listen.  Lani stood and walked towards
an ornate chest, pushed against the wall.  She retrieved and old, metal
key, that hung on a chain around her neck, and unlocked the chest.
She then raised the heavy lid, lifted out a small gold box, and handed it
to Kelly.
    "This is for you.  Do not open it until tomorrow."
    "What is...?"
    "If you open it before tomorrow," Lani interrupted, "I shall surely
curse you for the rest of your life," she threatened.
    "I will not open it," Kelly stated obediently.
    "Good," Lani replied as she sadly nodded at Kelly Takahito and
motioned her towards the door.  Kelly looked around once more before
leaving, closing the door softly behind her.
    A figure then stepped out of the shadows in the room and said,
"It is time."
    Angrily, Lani turned and confronted the stranger.  "You have NOT
completed YOUR end!  I have YET to have..."
    "SILENCE!!  Do you DARE question ME???  I HAVE kept my
side of the bargain and you will now keep yours."
    "You ARE deceitful.  I should have NEVER agreed to..."
    "But you HAVE agreed, and if you resist, you will forfeit your..."
    Lani suddenly pulled out a small gold object and thrust it out
towards the figure.
    The stranger laughed and remarked, "You really expect ME to
fear that primitive icon you hold so dear to your heart?  I shall enjoy
watching you suffer.  My plan is now in effect.  The gathering of my
followers has begun.  It is a pity that you will not be there to join them."
    The figure than began to transform into a hideous beast and Lani
gasped, grabbed her head, and opened her mouth in a silent scream.

              -----

    Jean-Luc Picard stood in the middle of a thick forest, not far from
his family homestead in La Barre, France.  Confused, he turned around
in a full circle to get his bearings.  He spotted a narrow, but well-worn
path through the thick undergrowth, and he began to follow it.  He heard
the 'snap' of a twig behind him and he turned quickly to see if anyone was
there.  Satisfied that he was alone, he continued to navigate around fallen
branches and thick ivy vines, towards the main road.  He stopped again
as he heard peals of laughter, soft at first, but then growing louder over
time.  He turned around again to be confronted by a large group of
people, who brandished hatchets and pitchforks and who were pointing
and laughing loudly and ominously at him.
    "Death to him!" one proclaimed.
    They all agreed and continued to laugh and chant, "Death!  Death!
Death!"
    As the crowd surged forward, towards him, the Enterprise Captain
abruptly sat up in his bed, shaking violently from the intensity of the
dream.  He took a deep breath, threw the coverlet to the side, and then
stood up next to the bed.  Rubbing the grogginess from his eyes, he
slowly padded over to the food dispenser and ordered a warm milk with
a touch of nutmeg.  He took the glass, drank the contents down in one
gulp, and then returned to bed.  He lay there stiffly, closed his eyes, and
finally drifted off into a dreamless sleep.

              --o--

    Kelly awoke early the next morning and began to make her rounds
around the resort.  She arrived promptly at seven for her daily staff
meeting and was concerned when Lani Mikoa did not answer the door
chime at her office.  Kelly tentatively turned the knob and stepped inside.
The office was just as she had seen it the night before but was now
empty.  She had opened the small box that Lani gave her and was
confused by its contents - the deed to the resort and several bars of gold
pressed latinum.  Kelly proceeded to search through he Main Lobby for
Lani, stopping at each shop and restaurant, and then finally at the bar.
    "Altan, have you seen Miss Mikoa?" she inquired.
    The Andorian slowly looked up at the worried assistant, twitched his
antennae and said, "No.  I have not seen the Mistress since last night."
    Mindful of Lani's strange behavior and words the night before,
Kelly raced down the steps from the Lobby and towards the beach,
where Lani Mikoa's small abode was located.  As she walked along the
garden that surrounded the main pool, she suddenly gasped and fell to
her knees in horror at what she saw.  Bloated and floating in the center
of the pool face down, was Lani Mikoa.


              C H A P T E R

              V


    "So what have they found?" Picard queried to Beverly Crusher.
    "Well, the doctors on Pacifica have ruled it a drowning.  The
Security teams say that they have found no sign of foul play."
    "Drowning?  Do YOU believe that?"
    "I don't know.  I really can't make a judgement call on it since
they won't release the body to me," Crusher noted.
    Picard stood up and began to pace around the small room.
"Beverly, do you feel that this drowning may somehow be connected to
the other...."
    "Now wait a minute, Jean-Luc," Crusher interrupted, "those other
killings happened on the ship.  This one was on the planet surface."
    "Yes but if I'm not mistaken, there hasn't been a death, other than
by natural causes, on Pacifica for years.  They pride themselves in their
security."
    "But Jean-Luc, they've ruled it an `accidental death'," the doctor
exclaimed.
    "Indeed," Picard replied warily.  "I knew Lani Mikoa from years
ago.  She used to work a shift from time to time at the `Blue Parrot Cafe',
in her younger days.  I remember she was always hustling for money.
As you can see, she apparently managed to save every bit to buy the
`Trade Winds'.  She was of Hawaiian ancestry, if I recall correctly, and I
would highly doubt that her `drowning' would have been `accidental'."
    "I think you're grasping at straws Jean-Luc, BUT, I'll go over the
medical report ONE MORE TIME, to see if I missed anything.  I doubt
if I have, though.  Oh, and if you can manage to pull any strings with the
Governor..."
    "Yes, I think I'll do just that.  If we can somehow link this with
the others... see if there is a pattern somewhere..."
    "Good luck Jean-Luc.  I'm not holding out much hope," Beverly replied.
    "It's worth a try.  We're at a dead end as it is..."
    As Crusher headed for the door, Picard reached out to grab her arm.
    "Beverly..."
    The doctor turned to look at him and registered some concern as
she watched his previously business-like demeanor switch to that of a
frightened child.
    "Jean-Luc, are you alright?" she inquired.
    Picard sighed as he began to explain.  "I had an unusual dream
last night.  I was back home in France, somewhere in the woods near
my house, when I encountered a, well..., a 'mob' of people who were
laughing and pointing at me.  They then started yelling 'DEATH!' at me,
and fortunately I awoke at the precise moment that they tried to... to
attack me."
    Beverly looked at him sympathetically as she related a similar
dream that she had had recently.  "I think, Jean-Luc, that it's a
coincidence.  With all the excitement of the Conference AND after
what's happened on board the ship, I think that all of us need a break."
    "I guess, I guess that must be it.  It just seems rather odd that I
should dream about something like this and then awake the next
morning to find that someone else has been killed."
    "Drowned, Jean-Luc.  Accidentally `drowned'," Crusher firmly corrected.
    Picard sighed and relented, "Drowned."
    "I'll see you later," she responded.
    Picard solemnly nodded as she left the room.

              -----

    "Listen, if what you say is true, then I'm interested," the
blond-haired Lieutenant remarked to Darrion Marks.
    "Then you WILL come with me."
    "How will we get there?  What about Star Fleet?" Starbuck asked.
    "Don't worry about that.  I've arranged transportation.  We're due
to rendezvous with the 'others'.  Are you with me?"
    "Well, that's a tough..."
    "Don't hedge Starbuck.  You're either in or out.  I have gathered
together hundreds to follow me.  Now you either..."
    "Alright, alright, just let me get my things."
    "Quickly, before they try to stop us."

              -----

    Captain Apollo stood shaking his head in disbelief as he listened
to his Junior Officer, Lieutenant Starbuck, in Starbuck's quarters aboard
the Enterprise.
    "Listen Apollo, I've made my decision.  I wanna go back," Starbuck
remarked, as he gathered together his belongings.
    "Go back?  Go back where?  What are you talking about?" Apollo replied.
    "Look, don't try and stop me.  I know what I'm doing."
    "Starbuck," Apollo began again, "what are you talking about?
The Caprican delegation has decided to settle on Earth."
    "Well I'm not and I'm not the only one.  You know, all this time
I've realized that I've been really fooling myself.  Going along with the
program, trying to save our people from the Cylons.  Running away,
ALWAYS running away, like a bunch of cowards.  Well I'm tired of
running, buddy.  It's time to fight back," Starbuck insisted.
    "Starbuck, have you lost all your senses?  You can't possibly..."
    "I'm serious Apollo and this time we'll have the fire power to do
it. I'm telling you, we're fools if we don't' take advantage of..."
    Apollo turned away and began to pace around the small cabin.
"I can't believe I'm hearing what I'm hearing, and from YOU of all people.
I mean, assuming you DO decide to go back..."
    "And I have," Starbuck interrupted.
    "Alright, assuming that you do go back, how will you get there?
It took us nearly a yahren to get this far and you know the Commander
will NEVER authorize anything like that."
    "Don't worry Apollo, we've got all the resources we'll need."
    "From who?  Star Fleet won't go along with this either."
    "Who said anything about 'Star Fleet'?  Look, I gotta go."
    "What about Cassiopeia?  What about..."
    "Could you tell her for me buddy?  I... I can't.  We'd end up arguing
again."
    "What about Blue Squadron?  You can't just..."
    "I've already handed in my resignation.  I've thought this over for
a long time and I believe I'm right.  No tearful goodbyes for me Captain.
Just wish me luck."
    "It's that Ambassador, isn't it?  What was his name?  Darrion Marks?"
    "Huh?"
    "He talked you into this, didn't he?"
    "Hey come on, now that's not..."
    "Lately, I've noticed him also cozying up to Athena and especially to
Sheba."
    "Now wait just a centon..."
    "He's got your mind so twisted around that you don't even know if
you're coming or going.  In fact, I've seen him hanging around the Senior
Officers from the Enterprise too."
    "Look Apollo, believe me, it didn't take some mind-reading alien
who looks like a Human, to convince ME to take the chance to fight for
my home planet..."
    "Really?  So then you mean you plan on joining that group...
what did they call themselves?  'Return Now!'?"
    "Uh, I don't need any group to..."
    "Look, if you've made up your mind to go, then go."
    "That's right, and I plan on doing just that.  I... I just don't want
to leave it like THIS."
    "Like what?  You expect me to go along with you?"
    "No, I don't... and I guess I never will.  Look Apollo, we grew up
under very different circumstances.  I mean, I was a poor orphan who
ended up being shuttled from family to family in my childhood.  You
had a famous father who commanded a Battlestar and who sat on the
Council of the Twelve.  You lived a truly privileged life.  I've always been
rough and tumble, you know, a 'country boy' type and you're..."
    "That's ridiculous Starbuck.  If I follow your line of reasoning,
then I would have more to lose if I DIDN'T go with you.  But I've dealt
with the fact that you can't always have everything you want in life.
There comes a time when you have to accept your circumstances
and move on.  I just can't see the feasibility of trying to fight for our
worlds now, while we're still weak and disorganized."
    "Well now that's just it, isn't it?  The people interested in doing
this don't consider themselves as 'weak and disorganized'.  Anyway,
just... just wish me luck, okay?  No hard feelings?"
    Apollo sighed heavily as he looked deeply into Starbuck's bright,
blue eyes.  He then reached for Starbuck's outstretched hand and the
two finally embraced and patted each other on the back.
    "Take care of yourself Starbuck," Apollo stated.
    "You know I will.  I always have," Starbuck teasingly replied.
"Oh, and tell Boxey that, uh, that I'm doing this for him, okay?"
    "That's hard," Apollo replied shaking his head in anguish.
"Okay, you just be careful.  See ya."
    The young Warrior smiled slightly as he nodded his head in
Apollo's direction and then grabbed his bag, turned, and headed
through the cabin doors into the corridor.

              -----

    Alexander and Boxey were running full speed down a long corridor,
effortlessly weaving in and out of the Enterprise personnel who strolled by.
They sharply rounded a corner and slammed full force into Ambassador
Darrion Marks.  The impact of the collision caused them to bounce
backwards and land hard on the floor.
    Alexander looked up at the tall, dark-eyed man and began to
apologize profusely.
    "Uh, sorry sir.  Really, we were just..."
    "In a big hurry, were you?" Marks replied with a small smile as
he rubbed his leg.
    "Um, we were, uh, just playing and..."
    "I see.  Were you going to the Holodeck by any chance?"
    "NO!!  My father said that I couldn't go unless I ask his permission
first," Alexander stated.
    Boxey looked up at the man and said nothing.
    "Your father is... Lieutenant Worf, is he not?" the Betazoid inquired.
    "Yes sir," Alexander responded with a gulp.
    Marks looked at Boxey and said, "And yours is Captain Apollo, I believe."
    "Yes sir..." Boxey replied nervously.  "You won't tell, will you?"
    The Ambassador laughed and then said, "Of course not.  You know... I think
you're both in luck.  I recently saw both of your fathers and if I'm not
mistaken, both mentioned that they were planning on beaming down to Pacifica
for a meeting.  So... if you want to go, who'll know?"
    "But..." Alexander began.
    "Hey, I was your age once.  I won't tell.  In fact, I was on my way
there myself.  Wanna see a neat program?" Marks asked provocatively.
    "A skeptical Alexander replied, "I don't know if we should.  We
might get into real big trouble."
    "Don't worry fellows, I'll vouch for you.  Come on," the Betazoid beckoned.
    Alexander looked at the confused Boxey and then back up at
Marks and said, "I don't think his father wants him to go.  He's too little."
    "Too little?  Too little for what?  Besides, all the kids on board go
to the Holodeck," the Ambassador insisted.
    "Well, I don't know..." Alexander answered, slowly beginning to soften.
    "Just for a little while then.  I just wanted to show you what I
programmed.  In fact, I heard that you're a Holodeck programming
genius, Alexander.  Maybe you can help me finish my program."
    "Okay." Alexander relented.  "But only for a LITTLE while.  Promise?"
    "You have my word," Darrion Marks replied while placing his hand
over his heart as if giving an oath.

              -----

    As Alexander, Boxey, and Darrion Marks approached the Holodeck
entrance, the doors promptly opened.  The three slowly stepped through
the opening and into the middle of a beautiful, almost endless field of
wildflowers, small shrubs and trees.  Large, white, billowy clouds hung
lazily overhead in the blue sky and a soft, warm breeze caressed their
faces.
    Boxey spun around in wonder and said, "Where are we?  This
almost looks like home!"
    Marks walked over to the two boys and handed Alexander a ball of string.
    "What's this?" the Klingon boy asked.
    The Betazoid man smiled and replied, "It's string.  On the other
end is this."  He then held up a large, very beautiful kite, fashioned in
the likeness of an immense hawk.
    "WOW!!" Alexander exclaimed with glee.  "A kite!!  I used to have
one of those when I was with my grandparents!  Look at this Boxey," he
said excitedly.  "Can we fly it???  Please?" he pleaded.
    Marks smiled again and said, "Sure.  I'll hold the kite and you two
run over that way.  When the wind's just right, I'll let it go and we'll see
what happens."
    The two boys took off across the field and Marks ran with them,
holding the kite in front of him.
    Alexander periodically looked back and carefully unraveled the
string to give the kite more slack.  Marks then lifted the kite high over
his head.  After a minute, he released it.
    The kite finally encountered a breeze, and it drifted slowly
upwards.  Then a brief gust sent the bird-kite soaring higher.
Alexander felt the kite ascend and he slowed and looked up at it.
    "WOW!  Look at that Boxey!  We did it!" he exclaimed as he
unraveled more string, allowing the kite to rise even higher in the sky.
    "Can I hold it?  Can I?" Boxey begged.
    "Sure, here."
    As the two boys stared in wonder at the magnificent kite, the
wind unexpectedly began to pick up and the force of it pulled Boxey
forward slightly.
    "Hey!" the small Human child yelled. "It's pulling me."
    "Hold on tight, Boxey.  We don't want to lose it!"
    The wind grew stronger and then Boxey shouted, "Alexander!!
Help me!  I don't want to let it go!"
    Alexander grabbed the spool and held it tightly.  The wind began
to gust still more and dark clouds rolled in to cover the sky.
    Suspiciously, Alexander exclaimed, "Hey!  What's going on?
Why is it getting dark?"  He looked around frantically for the Betazoid
Ambassador and was unable to see him anywhere.  Now concerned,
he looked at Boxey and asked, "Did you see where Mr. Marks went?"
    "No.  I don't wanna do this anymore Alexander.  Let's go," Boxey
shakily replied.
    "Yeah.  I think you're right," the Klingon boy agreed.  "Computer.
End program," he ordered.
    The wind continued to howl and now lightening began to dance
across the sky.
    "Wait a minute.  Why didn't it stop?" Alexander asked aloud.
More forcefully he repeated,  "COMPUTER!!  END PROGRAM!"
    A clap of thunder was the response and it caused the two young
boys to jump in surprise.
    They looked up at the sky again, just as the string they held
snapped and fell to the ground.  Curiously, the bird-kite remained in
place above them, hovering ominously.  With alarm, Alexander grabbed
Boxey's hand and they ran towards a large tree for cover.  They
crouched next to it as the wind grew more fierce.  Blowing debris from
the field now began swirling around them.
    "What's wrong?  Why won't it stop!" the frightened Boxey whimpered.
    "I don't know," Alexander replied.  "Something's REALLY wrong.
COMPUTER!  EXIT!" he yelled at the storm.
    The response this time was a long, piercing screech from above.
Alexander looked up and gasped in horror as the beak of the bird-kite
opened wide.  The kite, now a living, breathing hawk, headed straight for
them, it's long, sharp talons fully extended in front of it.
    Alexander turned towards Boxey and pushed him out of the way
just as the bird swooped low and past them, futilely clawing at the
space they had just vacated.  The two ran towards another tree while
the hawk circled high above to begin it's attack approach again.  Just
as they reached the tree, a large bolt of lightening hit it and it burst into
a million sparks.  Boxey and Alexander were thrown to the ground and
they rolled in opposite directions, again evading the hawk as it
plummeted and missed.  Alexander crawled towards Boxey and held
him close as the hawk resumed it's circling in preparation for another run.
    Suddenly, the left wall of the Holodeck chamber began to flicker
and the images began to fade.  Boxey buried his head in the Klingon
boy's tunic, and began to sob in fear.  Alexander watched in
fascination as another wall began to flicker and fade to black and yellow.
The bird above began to screech loudly and angrily, as the sky finally
began to flicker to reveal a ceiling.  The hawk quickly charged again in
one last attempt, and then abruptly winked out of existence, mere
centimeters above Alexander's head.
    The boys sat crouched together and were shivering violently
when Lieutenant Commander Data entered the Holodeck.
    "Alexander, Boxey, are you alright?" the android asked with
concern, as he ran towards them.  "My console indicted a malfunction
in this chamber and after discovering that a program was in progress
here, I attempted to discontinue it."
    Alexander tried to speak but no words would come out.
    Data knelt down, picked up both boys, and carried them towards
the exit.  He then remarked, "I am afraid that the mortality fail-safe was
somehow disabled during the running of this program.  Thus, I will take
you both to sickbay to verify that you have not suffered any extensive
injuries."
              -----

    Apollo stood silently looking out the window in his father's
quarters.
    "Apollo, I'm sorry that you weren't able to convince Starbuck
to stay with us, but I don't think that there is anything we can do to
stop him, once he's made up his mind," Adama remarked.
    "But Father, why now?  Now, more than ever, we NEED people
like Starbuck to..."
    "Do we?  The purpose of this Conference was to not only apply
for admission to the Federation, but to expose our people to the myriad
of possibilities that they would have if they chose to stay here.
Apparently Starbuck wasn't convinced..."
    "But that's just it... somehow, someone, who I believe I know the
identity of, 'unconvinced' Starbuck that staying here would be the right
thing to do," Apollo replied.
    "'Unconvinced'?  What do you mean?  Who is this 'someone' you
are talking about?"
    "Ambassador Marks.  I've seen him almost everywhere.  On this
ship, down on the surface... talking to tens, if not hundreds of people.
Remember how he managed to visit EVERY ship in the Fleet during
the time he was with us?  Father, I may be crazy, but there's
something about him that's just not..."
    "Crusher to Captain Apollo", a voice on the intercom stated.
    Apollo walked over to a Comm panel, punched a button and
answered, "Captain Apollo here."
    "Captain, could you come to sickbay right away?  It's your son."

              -----

    Captain Apollo nearly crashed through the closed doors of
sickbay, which barely parted in time to admit him.  He shoved past
the nurses and technicians towards Doctor Crusher.   Crusher looked
up at the man who approached and carefully laid her diagnostic scanner
on a table.
    "Where is he?" Apollo demanded.
    "He's fine Captain.  He's right over here," Beverly Crusher replied,
pointing over to a nearby bed.
    Apollo swiftly moved towards the bed and said, "Boxey, what
happened?"
    "Captain, could you come into my office?" Crusher requested.
    "Not until I see how my son is."
    "Really, Boxey will be fine.  Just a little worn for he wear.
Nothing unusual for a boy his age."
    "I see, and how would you know what little boys..."
    "I HAVE a son, Captain, who's not that much younger than
you are."
    "Fine, but I think you should understand that I've really had it up
to here with..."
    "Please Captain.  Commander Data is in my office and he will fill
you in on what happened."
    Apollo took a deep breath and finally relented to accompany
Crusher to her office.  Inside, Data stood calmly, awaiting his turn to
brief the Colonial Officer.  Crusher leaned against the edge of her desk
and folded her arms across the front of her body.
    "Alright Commander.  From the beginning.  Tell me what's going
on?" Apollo insisted.
    "Apparently the two boys were involved in a Holodeck program
that may have caused..." Data began.
    "What two boys?  Who else was with Boxey?" Apollo
interrupted.
    "Lieutenant Worf's son, Alexander."
    Furious, Apollo exclaimed, "What?  I told Boxey not to..."
    "According to both boys, they were accompanied by Ambassador Marks."
    "What?"
    "When I questioned the boys, they informed me that Ambassador Marks had
asked them to help him with his program..."
    "Boxey is not even seven yahrens old and he doesn't know
anything about any `Holodeck'.  I don't understand..."
    "Captain please..." Crusher pleaded.
    "The program involved a seemingly innocuous outdoor scene of
an open field.  The Ambassador offered to assist the boys with a kite.
As soon as the kite was aloft, the boys say that the wind began to
gust and a storm ensued.  They also claim that the kite transformed
into a real hawk and it began to attack them.  At approximately that
point,  I discovered the malfunction and proceeded to shut down the
program.  I found the two boys huddled together in the center of the
Holodeck and brought them here."
    "Where is Marks now?"
    "That's the strange part Captain," Crusher injected.  "According
to the Conference schedule, he was supposedly in a session during the
entire time of the incident."
    "What the hell is going on here?" Apollo remarked.
    "I do not know Captain, but we will endeavor to find out."

              --o--

    "YOU!  ANDORIAN!  WHAT do you know about your boss's death?"
Worf demanded to the bartender at the 'Trade Winds'.
    "My NAME is Altan and I know nothing," the bartender replied
evenly.
    "Have you seen any strange people around here?" Riker asked,
as he turned to watch two Yridian traders walk by.  "Anyone
suspicious?"
    "People come and people go," was the reply.
    "Anyone that Lani Mikoa may have... 'owed'?" Worf asked.
    "Not that I am aware.  I have learned to mind my own business,"
Altan calmly said.
    "Really... then I'm sure you're aware that there hasn't been any
act of violence successfully carried out on this planet in years," Riker
noted.
    "My people are a violent race, Commander.  Such things do not
phase me.  But I do recognize 'evil' when I encounter it."
    "'Evil'?" Worf exclaimed.
    The Andorian smiled slowly and his eyes shifted quickly from
Officer to Officer.  "Perhaps I can be persuaded with some...
incentive..."
    "You KNOW that Star Fleet Officers don't carry any currency.
But perhaps, we can request that the local Health department re-
schedule their inspections..."
    "They will find NOTHING.  The Mistress was obsessive about
the cleanliness of her establishment.  No bother, I will relay to you
my observations.  There is an evil presence here, one which I haven't
encountered in many, many of your years.  Beware of it Human
and Klingon."
    And with that, the Andorian turned and walked away.

              -----

    "This is like Paradise.  The ocean, the gardens... It's like a
wonderful fantasy come true.  I wish that we could stay here forever,"
Lieutenant Sheba dreamily remarked, as she leaned against the stone
railing that circled the Grand Courtyard, overlooking the ocean.
    "Why not?  That IS an option," Darrion Marks whispered, as he
slowly moved behind her, placed his hands on the back of her neck,
and began to massage it.
    Sheba sighed and then responded, "I don't think so.  Actually,
I promised to go with Apollo and the others to Earth."
    "You like him, don't you?"
    "Who?"
    "Come on Sheba.  You forget what I am, what I can do," the Betazoid noted.
    "Well... yes, I will admit that I'm attracted to Apollo, but..."
    "But?"
    "Well, I don't think that I can ever replace his wife, at least in
HIS eyes, anyway."
    "And who might she be?"
    "Serina.  Her name was Serina."
    "So where is she now?"
    "She was killed.  It was so sad.  I'm sorry that I wasn't there for
Apollo.  That happened before I met him, just prior to when my father's
ship briefly joined up with the Galactica," Sheba explained.
    "Your father?  Tell me about him," Marks asked, already knowing
the story.
    "What is there to tell?  He was the greatest and most famous of all
the Colonial  Commanders.  An outstanding Warrior.  I've always envied
him."
    "Where is he now?"
    "Well, we really don't know.  We lost track of him during a battle.
We don't know his whereabouts."
    "I see.  Perhaps, you should seek him out."
    "What?  How?  Besides, wherever he is, it's a long, long way from here."
    "I think that I can help you."
    "But how?  I thought that..."
    "Do you want to find your father?  See him again?"
    "Well yes, but..."
    "Then come with me.  I'll take you to him," the Ambassador
replied, almost hypnotically.
    "What.... what are you talking about?" Sheba responded, now a
little disoriented.
    Suddenly, Marks grabbed her and began to kiss her
passionately.  She tried to resist but then relaxed, tentatively wrapping
her arms around his neck.  Their lips parted and Marks whispered,
"Come with me.  There are others who will be going."
    Sheba stared at him with confusion, as her emotions began to
run wild.  His black eyes burned in her soul and she sat motionless,
gazing into infinity.
    "Will you come with me?" he asked again.
    "You, you...  What IS it??  What is it about you that is so
familiar?"
    "Perhaps it's my love for adventure.  The years I served on a
freighter exploring the galaxy," he suggested.
    "I guess... I guess that MUST be it," she replied, looking down
at the floor with confusion.
    Marks began to stroke her hair.  He then lifted her chin to guide
her eyes towards his as he again whispered, "Will you come with me?
Will you follow me?"
    Weakly, Sheba responded, "Yes."


              C H A P T E R

              VI


    Rhythmically, predictably, the sea ran to greet the shore and
playfully retreated back to the safety of its depths.  Again and again,
it's fingers reached forward to touch the fine, blue-white sand and then
pulled back again.  Apollo sat stiffly on a large piece of driftwood,
looking out at the rushing and retreating water.  Maddening images
were constantly besieging him, as he tried to rest his mind.
    "It's beautiful, isn't it?" Deanna Troi said sweetly, from
directly behind the seated man.  She then made her way around a
tangle of vines to reach Apollo.
    "I guess so.  You know, it's been so long since I've been to an
ocean.  When I was little, my mother used to take us all the time.  I
used to like to run right up to the edge of the water and then when a
wave came in, I would run back as fast as I could, before the water got
a chance to touch me."
    "You seem troubled," Troi suddenly remarked.
    Apollo glanced up at the Counselor and remarked, "Wouldn't you
be?  After all that's happened?  After what MAY happen?  I mean,
someone tried to kill my son.  This has GOT to stop!"
    "I understand, but if you think about it, there's always going
to be confusion and turmoil when change occurs.  It's part of the
process."
    "Yes but this has gone a bit too far.  Cold-blooded killing?
We've had enough death and destruction at the hands of the Cylons
already," Apollo noted.
    "But wasn't this type of thing building up for a while?  I mean,
from what I could see, there was a lot of discontent among your people
with respect to what would happen to them."
    "Sure there's turmoil.  Sure there's a lot of discontent.  But now
you're suggesting that your people had nothing to do with this."
    "I'm not suggesting that at all.  I'm just trying to show you some
reasons why you shouldn't dwell on it.  It's as simple as that.  Besides,
what would the Federation gain from being involved in something like
that anyway?" Troi asked defensively.
    "You know, I've begun to notice something about you people.
You always want to look at or blame someone else when something
like this happens."
    "What do you mean?"
    "Exactly what I said," Apollo replied, turning away from her and
trying hard to suppress his anger and frustration.  "We have now had
four people killed by some sick individual or  individuals, two children
who were 'allegedly' attacked by some out-of-control computer, and all
YOU do is go around and psychoanalyze why we shouldn't worry about it."
    Counselor Troi, now somewhat insulted, said, "I sensed that you
were upset and frustrated and I came over here to try to help.  I resent
the fact that you believe I'm doing this for some selfish, personal
reason."
    "Are you?"
    "As ship's Counselor, THAT'S my job, and I'm sorry that you feel
the way you do about me and my crewmates.  If you want to know, we
are ALL concerned about what happened and have spent the past few
days and nights trying to come up with an explanation.  Now if that's
not good enough for you Captain, then that's too bad!"  She
immediately turned around and left him to sit alone again, her eyes
burning with fury.

              -----

    After returning to her small, overnight beach house to retrieve
her bathing suit and towel, Deanna Troi stood silently on the beach,
finally relaxed after her ordeal with Captain Apollo.  She closed her
eyes, as the sea breeze gently caressed her face and set her long
hair in motion. She looked up at the sky and smiled as the full
moon's soft glow softly illuminated the tree tops and water surface.
She carefully unfastened her tunic and let it drop to the sand.  Slowly,
she walked towards the water and tentatively extended one toe to
gauge the temperature of the surf.  Judging it suitable, she ran towards
the waves and then expertly dove in.
    She began her water exercises with a strong free style swim
towards the center of the lagoon and then she stopped to float
peacefully on her back, staring up at the twinkling stars.  She felt her
body arch and flatten in tandem with the current, as it gathered strength
to finally reach the shore, only to retreat and begin again.  Wave after
wave passed beneath her body, stronger and stronger until she found
herself bobbing higher then she felt comfortable with.  She rolled into
an upright position, gently kicking her legs to keep her balance and
was now somewhat concerned with the undertow she felt.  She looked
over at the shore and then began to swim towards it.  After awhile, she
looked up again and noted that she had not made as much progress
as she expected.  She began to swim harder, periodically looking up
to check her position.  Now anxious, she quickly looked around just
in time to brace herself for a large wave that had formed out of nowhere
and came crashing down upon her, sending her deep underwater.
She struggled with all her might to reach the dark surface and once
there, barely had time to gasp before another wave sent her under
again.  She began to panic and she struggled to summon her
emergency water safety training, in an effort to conserve her energy and
air.  She again managed to break the surface, whereby she gasped for
air, screamed, and then was pulled under yet another time.  Her chest
and limbs began to ache as she once more fought to reach the surface,
but to no avail.  With one final kick, she tried to break free of the
powerful current, cried out in her mind to her mother and her Imzadi,
William Riker, and then gave up, as her lungs drank it's fill of the sea,
and the world went dark.

              -----

    "DEANNA!!!!" Lwaxanna Troi suddenly screamed, accidentally
sending her dinner plate flying off the table.
    "Lwaxanna!  What is it?  What's wrong?!" the startled
Commander of the Galactica asked.
    "OH GOD!  DEANNA!  Please, Adama... please HELP HER!"
she moaned, crumbling to the floor in tears.
    Adama ran to the Comm panel in his quarters and hit the
button that opened a channel.  "Adama to Captain Picard.  Please
acknowledge.  We have an emergency."

              -----

    The first thing Deanna Troi sensed was her violent coughing,
as she struggled to take air into her water-filled lungs.  Then she
felt a pulsating pressure around her waist and chest, that started
low and then pushed upwards.  Finally, she found that her normal
breathing pattern had begun to return, periodically interrupted with
more coughing, as her body attempted to expel the remaining liquid
within her.  She felt someone gently lay her on her side and then felt
that someone begin to rub her back.  Gentle fingers unclasped the
fine gold chain with the Bajoran amulet and slid it off her neck.  She
shuddered with exhaustion, drifting in and out of  consciousness
and she could barely hear the whisper in her ear.
    "You'll be fine.  Just lay there and let me take care of you."
    Deanna suddenly shivered once more and then she felt warmth
all over her body.  She began to feel as if someone were probing her
mind.  She tried to fight it, but her mind was weakened and she was
barely conscious.  The sensations proved to be too strong, too
wonderful, too delicious to resist.
    "Deanna, come with me," the voice whispered in her mind.
    "I can't," she replied to his mind.
    "Deanna, you WANT to come with me," the voice insisted.
    "Come where?  I..."
    "Help me then.  Will you help me?" the voice pleaded inside
her head.
    Deanna gave in and responded telepathically, "Yes."

              -----

    Will Riker ran full speed across the fine sand towards a row
of small beach houses, clustered around the lagoon.  He found
Deanna Troi's bungalow and burst through the door yelling, "Deanna!
Where are..."
    He abruptly stopped cold when he saw Darrion Marks sitting on
the bed beside the Counselor.
    "Commander?" Marks innocently said.  "Is there a problem?"
    Riker now confused, replied, "Deanna's mother claims that
she sensed that her daughter was in danger.  I came down
immediately to investigate."
    Troi piped up and responded, "I'm alright Will.  I had a, well...
a swimming accident.  I'll be fine."
    A skeptical Riker, while angrily staring at the Betazoid
Ambassador, entreated, "Are you SURE Deanna?  I can get Doctor
Crusher here to check you..."
    "NO!  No, that's alright, Will.  Really... I just need to get
myself together."
    Marks stood up and walked towards Riker.  "She's perfectly
fine, Commander," he calmly stated.  "Is there anything else?"
    Furious, but in control, Riker mumbled, "No."  He solemnly
looked towards Deanna, nodded at Marks, and then left the room.

              -----

    Lwaxanna Troi sat on a sofa in her quarters and began to lament
her state of affairs.
    "Oh Adama!  I thought that when I was through with the
diapers, I was free at last.  And then came the toddling, and then
the friend-making, and then school, and dating... it just never ends."
    Adama chuckled and continued with, "And THEN comes the
weddings, and then the grandchildren, and on and on.  Yes
Lwaxanna, you are right.  It NEVER ends."
    Lwaxanna sighed and said, "This has been such an awful day.
First I was forced to break up a fist fight between two delegates in my
session.  Then I was forced to sit in on a session with that AWFUL
Ambassador from Zackdorn and his arrogant AND obnoxious
assistant.   THEN, I ruined a perfectly romantic dinner worrying
about..."
    "Lwaxanna," Adama interrupted, "don't be so hard on yourself."
    "Well at least YOU didn't have to sit in front of that RUDE
Tellarite, who was snoring through your whole presentation."
    "Lwaxanna..."
    "And MY speech was JUST AWFUL..."
    "I think that you did rather well..."
    "I'm sorry Adama, It's been a long day.  Maybe I need to
turn in for the night," Mrs. Troi remarked.
    "Agreed.  Shall we meet again for breakfast tomorrow morning?"
    Lwaxanna slowly looked up at his dark brown eyes and smiled.
"That would be nice," she replied.
    Adama cleared his throat and then said, "Very good.  Then I
shall see you tomorrow morning?"
    "Yes," was the weak reply.
    "Good night Lwaxanna."
    Adama turned to leave, halted, and then slowly walked back
to the Betazoid.  He bent down slightly and kissed her on the cheek.
Lwaxanna began to blush as she said, "Good night Adama and sweet dreams."
    He smiled, nodded, and then exited the cabin.

              -----

    Lwaxanna Troi tossed and turned restlessly in her bed as her
sub-conscious rapidly moved from vision to horrifying vision.  She
found herself standing on the edge of a barren cliff, overlooking a
steep canyon.  The wind buffeted her body as she struggled to
keep her footing and balance.  She found herself paralyzed and
frustrated that she could not make her legs move away from there,
away to ANYWHERE.  A fierce gust howled past her and the
wind-swept rain threatened to toss her over the cliff.  Suddenly,
she began to hear someone laughing.  The laughter started softly,
as if from some distance away, and then it increased in intensity.
It echoed around her, rising and falling, as lightening now danced
across the sky.
    "Stop!" Lwaxanna cried out in her mind.  The hysterical laughter
continued, now all around her, pounding endlessly in her head, and
she attempted to cover her ears.
    "STOP!!" she yelled again at no one, and no one paid her any
mind as the squeals continued.
    Lwaxanna abruptly sat upright in her bed, with beads of sweat
on her forehead.  She was breathing heavily and shaking from her
nightmare, trying desperately to fathom the hidden meaning behind it.
She closed her eyes and tried to relax, finally laying back down and
wrapping the covers around her, as she began to feel slightly chilled.
She slowly drifted off to sleep again and found herself in an ancient,
drafty stone castle.  She looked around at the myriad of lighted
candles that dotted the old courtyard and twinkled from massive
chandeliers, hung from the soot-covered stone ceiling.
    A man entered the large room through an old, creaky door and
walked past her as if she were invisible.  The man, dressed in a heavy
linen tunic and cloak, wore a small crown of brass on his head.  His
full, dark beard and mustache were untrimmed, contributing to his
overall unkempt appearance.  The man walked past her again, this
time carrying a wooden box, with strange carved symbols on it and
inlays of gold and silver.  He stopped in the center of the courtyard,
just as others began to enter the room.  Men and women from a
number of different worlds crowded around the center of the courtyard
near the man, some dressed impeccably in silks and jewels, while
others were barely clothed in sackcloth or whatever rags they could
find.  Lwaxanna walked towards the people as they began to form a
circle around a strange ceramic pattern on the floor.  The bearded man
stepped within the inlaid circle, opened the box and took out a jar of
red powder.  As he opened the jar, the people began to chant in some
unintelligible tongue, some dropping to their knees in deference.  The
man poured the contents on the floor and the chanting grew louder.
Lwaxanna pushed through the crowds, demanding from those around
her, the purpose of what was happening.  The people ignored her and
reverently watched as the man then pulled out another jar from his box.
He held it up for all to see and the crowds cheered.
    A breeze suddenly filtered into the room, causing the candles
all around to flicker.  The man opened the jar and poured it's contents
on the floor.  Suddenly a large gust of wind simultaneously blew out all
the candles and fueled the flames that erupted inside the circle of
onlookers.  The bearded man then burst out in hysterical laughter as
the flames darted around him.  The crowd joined in and soon the entire
chamber echoed in maddening glee.  Lwaxanna again covered her ears
and shouted for it to stop.  As she tried to run away, she found herself
blocked, as the people began to encircle her, pointing and shouting
and laughing.  Lwaxanna dropped to her knees and covered her head
as they continued to taunt her and ridicule her.
    "NO!" she yelled as she again abruptly sat up in the bed, her
sheets now splayed on the floor from her tossing and turning.  She
immediately stumbled out of the bed and reached for her Comm panel
to summon her servant.


              C H A P T E R

              VII


Captain's Log.  Supplemental


"We are now in the fourth day of the Conference and I have observed
a slight change in the behavior of my crew.  Nothing obvious, not
enough to warrant a more in-depth examination just yet, but a shift in
personality, nonetheless.  I perceive a modicum of evasiveness, a
barely perceptible, 'dark tone' that has taken root on board this ship.
I am still disturbed by nightmarish dreams and have recently
discovered that numerous members of my crew are similarly
plagued by these haunting images.

Of course, all of this may be just my imagination, as we are all
suffering the stress of the events that have occurred over the past few
days, but when you serve with a crew, so closely, so intimately, you
KNOW them, FEEL them.  I KNOW that right now, SOMETHING
doesn't feel right."

              --o--

    "Tigh, what's your status?" Adama asked the man on his
viewscreen.
    "Bad Adama.  Ever since word spread throughout the Fleet
about what happened to the Council President, things have gotten
almost completely out of control," the Colonel remarked.
    "Have you declared Martial Law?" Adama asked.
    "Struck down," Tigh angrily spat.  "By order of the Council.
Adama, we have hundreds, including some of our Warriors, who have
left the Fleet aboard fifteen of our fastest ships and are headed towards
some place the Federation calls, 'Ipus Minor'."
    "I see, and what about those assigned to those ships?  They
didn't just throw people off..."
    "With respect to the displacement of the people from those
ships, well... we're stretching all our resources just to accommodate
them AND maintain some order."
    "What about those who stayed?"
    "Fortunately, most of our people appear willing to go along with
the agreements signed between the Federation and the Colonies.  We
just have to keep those who are dissatisfied from stirring up trouble
and instigating more chaos by spreading unsubstantiated rumors."
    "Very well.  Star Fleet has informed us that they will be
sending what they call 'Colonization ships' to you to begin the
transfer of our people to the agreed upon locations.  I will be joining
you shortly thereafter.  And Tigh, there are some things that I will need
to speak with you about when I arrive.  Things that don't bode well for
our future."
    "I understand, Adama.  I've heard the rumors."
    "Rumors that MAY be true."
    "Adama, what more can happen to...?"
    "Tigh, despite all that has happened since the beginning and
despite all that will come to pass, I put my faith in the writings of the
ancestors.  We will prevail in the end.  You or I may not live to see it,
but we WILL prevail.  I believe it in my very soul."
    "I hope you're right Adama."
    "I KNOW I'm right."

              --o--

    "Hey Data, look at this."
    Lieutenant Commander Geordi LaForge and Lieutenant
Commander Data were standing hunched over the main console in
Engineering.
    "Interesting," Data replied as he looked at the screen of
information pointed out by Geordi.
    "I'll say.  If I'm reading this correctly, it looks like
according to the logs, at the precise moment that the 'storm' began
in the Holodeck program, the ship's internal sensors registered an
energy surge, not only where YOU saw it, in the imaging and matter
conversion subsystems of the Holodeck, but actually in the chamber
itself, as if someone activated some kind of huge power generator in
there.  That must have been some powerful program to malfunction
like that," LaForge remarked.
    "Geordi, I do not believe that the program itself caused the
energy surge.  According to the actual program logs, the program
ran normally.  There were no indications of any programming
anomalies or shifts in the expected settings.  However, it appears that
the Ops station was reacting to the sudden energy surge and
interpreted THAT as a malfunction.  In fact, the data that we have so
far, particularly that found in the ship's internal functions logs, seems
to confirm that the energy surge occurred INDEPENDENTLY from
the program OR the chamber," Data noted.
    "Data... what are you suggesting?"
    "I hypothesize that the energy surge may have been caused
either from some source OUTSIDE the ship or possibly by some
entity on board the ship," Data replied.
    "Entity...? Geordi began.
    "Excuse me gentlemen.  You're just the people I wanted to
see," Darrion Marks interrupted.
    "Uh, Ambassador... we were just reviewing your Holodeck
program and..." Geordi began to explain.
    "You didn't find anything, did you?" the Betazoid replied, almost
hypnotically.
    Geordi tried to speak, but couldn't put the words together, as
he suddenly felt slightly disoriented.
    "Actually," Data chimed in, "We..."  Data momentarily froze, blinked and
then continued in a stilted fashion, indicating an internal malfunction of his
programming, "Could... not... locate... a... cause... for... the...
malfunction."
    "Commander LaForge?" Marks inquired.
    "We... couldn't... confirm anything," the Engineer replied with confusion,
as those were definitely NOT the words he wanted to say.
    "Hmm, I see.  Well keep working on it.  I'm sure something will turn up,"
the Ambassador responded.
    "Yes sir!  Uh, I mean, yes Ambassador.  We'll keep looking,"
Geordi fumbled, trying to clear his mind of the disorientation, and now
trying to deal with the massive distortions that he could see and feel
through his VISOR.
    "Geordi, are you alright?" the Second Officer asked with concern.
    "I don't know Data.  I think something's wrong with my VISOR.
I... I better go to sickbay and see Doctor Crusher so she can check it
out."
    "Good idea Commander LaForge.  I'll walk you there, if you'd
like," Marks offered.
    "No, no that's okay.  I'll... I'll get there."
    "Very good," Marks replied, as he walked away from the two
Enterprise Officers.
    "I will continue here Geordi.  Since neither the logs nor the
internal sensors registered anything unusual, then perhaps the Ops
console was malfunctioning," Data remarked matter-of-factly.  "Even
an energy surge or anomaly might have indicated something, but
unfortunately none of these were detected."
    "Yeah and it also looks like those two boys pulled a fast one
on us, lying like that and telling us that Ambassador Marks was in
there with them," Geordi added angrily.

              --o--

Adama's Journal:


"It has been nearly a secton since we left the Fleet to participate
in the Federation membership Conference and I have found an
increase in the frequency of strange and unexplainable occurrences
that have marred what should have been a joyous event.  My crew is
exhibiting unusual behavior and I fear that some evil presence has
been let loose both aboard this ship AND on the planet's surface.  I
ask the Lords to watch over us during this stressful time."

              -----

    "Lwaxanna, I came here to ask you to confirm for me, a feeling
that I've had since I came on board this vessel," Commander Adama
stated.
    "It's about Darrion Marks, isn't it?" Mrs. Troi replied.
    "Yes."
    "I don't know what to tell you, Adama.  I've tried to penetrate
his mind but he closes it off to me.  It's as if he weren't there at all.
I don't know what else to tell you."
    "Has he ever approached you or tried to become friendly with
you as I have observed that he has done with my crew?"
    "No.  Interestingly enough, I've had very little contact with him.
Perhaps due to the fact that our respective families have had a, well,
a very 'cool' relationship with each other in the past."
    "I see.  Lwaxanna, I had a very disturbing dream last night.  I
haven't told anyone else about it, not even my children.  I
remember..."  He paused and thought for a bit, then continued, "I
remember crowds... all around me... laughing and pointing at me,
taunting me.  The worst part was the laughter, the insane laughter.
I recall that one of the faces in the crowd was... it HAD to be, Darrion
Marks."
    "Adama, I had a similar dream, with people laughing, but I
don't remember Darrion being in it.  I've recently noticed your intense
concern about this man, but I just can't quite figure out why.  It's as if
you're leaving me dangling..."
    "I have been trained to exercise thought-blocking as well,
Lwaxanna.  There are thoughts I have that I don't wish you to know, if
only to not have you involved in what I suspect may be..."
    "Involved?  Involved in what?  You suspect that Darrion Marks
has something to do with what's going on?"
    "I don't know WHAT to believe Lwaxanna.  I only know that I don't
want you to get hurt."
    "Hurt?  Hurt by whom?  Adama, I am a grown woman.  I am quite
capable of ..."
    "Please Lwaxanna, do not be offended by what I mean.  If you
insist, I believe that Ambassador..."
    Suddenly, the door chime sounded.
    Lwaxanna responded with, "Come in?"
    Ambassador Marks tentatively stepped inside the cabin.  "Ah,
Ambassador Troi, I, uh, didn't expect that you had company, perhaps
I will come back later?"
    "Yes Darrion, why don't you do that," Lwaxanna replied.
    Marks smiled, nodded and then left.
    "Now, you should sense my apprehension Lwaxanna.  I have
noted that whenever I have  mentioned his name, he always appears."
    "Now THAT sounds a little paranoid, don't you think?"
    "It's true and you don't find it the least bit unusual that we
should experience similar dreams?" Adama insisted.  "I am afraid
that I must speak with the Captain about what has occurred over the
past secton.  It must end here."
    "Adama, are you suggesting...?  You REALLY wish to break
off the talks?"
    Adama stood and headed for the door.  "Yes.  Until such time
that the Federation feels that we are worth negotiating with."
    "But I think that you're jumping to conclusions.  You can't
possibly believe that the Federation condones..."
    "As I said before, I don't know WHAT to believe Lwaxanna.  All
I know is that I have recently talked to one of my Officers back on the
Galactica and apparently a significant percentage of our people have
left the fleet with members of YOUR Federation and Star Fleet.  For
some reason, they want to attempt to carry out an assault on the
Cylons.  This talk of returning to attack our enemies has caused a lot
of confusion among my people.  It MUST end here and now.  This
Darrion Marks has spent an inordinate amount of time socializing
with our Colonists.  I believe that somehow, HE is the cause of all
our problems, both here and back at the Fleet."
    "WHAT?"
    "Lwaxanna, please.  I don't blame you for what has happened but
I must look out for the safety of those under my care and responsibility.
I will try to speak with you again later this evening, if you will have me."
    "Of course Adama.  You know you are always welcome."
    "I hope that I am, Lwaxanna.  I hope that I am."

            -----

    "Sir, I have analyzed all the data that we have from all four
deaths and I have found only two things in common," the android
Second Officer remarked.
    "And those are?" Picard asked.
    "First, all four had some connection to the Conference,
including Mr. Mot's assistant, who we recently discovered, had
planned to apply for a job as a personal barber to the Colonial
Council President.  He also planned to sign on as a temporary
worker at a concession stand located in the 'Trade Winds Resort',
during the week of the Conference."
    "Hmmm, and what else?"
    "Secondly, all four had some connection to Ambassador
Marks."
    "Marks?"
    "That is correct."
    Picard stood and began to pace.  "Marks?  Where on Earth
would Jonathan Baird have met Darrion Marks?"
    "I checked the files and apparently, Admiral Baird was one of
the Admirals who received a debriefing from Marks regarding the
Cardassian cease-fire agreement."
    "But I thought that Admiral Nechayev...?"
    "Admiral Nechayev was also involved in the debriefing,
although specifically that given by Captain Jellico.  Admiral Baird
acted as a liaison between the Federation and Star Fleet during that
time, just prior to his detail as Acting Commandant of Star Fleet
Academy.  Thus he was often called to sit in on discussions with
the Diplomatic Corps."
    "And the Council President?"
    "Apparently, early on, the Council President became very
friendly with the Ambassador, I believe from the time they first met
aboard the Enterprise, just after our battle with the Cylons."
    Stupefied, Picard continued, "And Lani...?"
    "From the interviews that Lieutenant Worf and I have conducted
on the planet surface, including those I had with Miss Mikoa's
assistant, Kelly Takahito, Darrion Marks was a frequent visitor to the
resort and was apparently a good friend of the proprietor.  Finally, Mr.
Mot's assistant had apparently known the Ambassador from some
time ago, before he came on board the Enterprise," Data concluded.
    "What about the computer malfunction of the fire suppression system?"
    "We still haven't uncovered any evidence of a `malfunction'
Captain.  At this point, Geordi and I are speculating that perhaps
a force field of some kind, undetectable by our sensors, may have
been in place, actually isolating the fire and smoke from the detection
systems."
    Picard began to pace around the room in frustration.  "None of
what you describe is enough to draw any conclusions.  Ever since
we arrived at Pacifica and began to experience these violent and
unexplainable acts, we have encountered one dead end after another,
as if we were being purposely misled to believe that the incidents
were random," he remarked.  "Now you propose that all roads lead to
this Betazoid Ambassador, who, from the brief instances that I have
observed him, appears to have made it a point to portray himself as
anything BUT a cold-blooded, manipulating killer.  Data, I need
something more substantial.  Can you place the Ambassador at
any of..."
    Suddenly the door chime sounded and Picard responded, "Come."
    Ambassador Marks stepped inside and commented, "Oh,
excuse me Captain, I'm sorry to have disturbed you.  I didn't realize
that you were having a meeting.
    Picard then replied, "Ambassador what can I do for you?"
    "It really wasn't that important.  Just some artifacts I managed
to buy on Pacifica that I thought you might be interested in.  Another
time perhaps?"
    "Yes.  Another time."
    "Very good," Marks replied.  He glanced over at Data and
acknowledged his presence with, "Commander," before turning and
walking out the door.
    Slightly miffed, Picard turned to look at his Second Officer,
"Data, you were saying..."
    "Actually Captain, you inquired as to whether the Ambassador
could be placed at the scene of the incidents.  Each time, the
possibility did exist where he COULD have been there, however, the
evidence is circumstantial... except for one other thing..."
    "What's that?"
    "There was an incident in the Holodeck involving Captain Apollo's
son Boxey and Worf's son Alexander.  According to the two boys,
Ambassador Marks accompanied them into the Holodeck to run one
of his programs and then he left them, trapped within the
malfunctioning Holodeck program."
    "Malfunctioning?"
    "Yes.  I discovered that somehow, the security lockouts had
been overridden and the mortality fail-safe had been discontinued.
I was able however, to halt the program in time.  Fortunately, the boys
were not hurt."
    "When did all this happen?" Picard asked, now very concerned.
    "Just yesterday afternoon, sir.  We questioned Marks after we
found him, and..."  Data froze again.
    "Data, are you alright?" Picard inquired suspiciously.  "Run a
self-diagnostic.  I think that..."
    Data remained silent for a brief moment, blinked and then
stated, "Self-diagnostic complete.   Every thing checks out.  Perhaps
it was a momentary glitch..."
    "Continue then," Picard ordered, suspicion now penetrating his psyche.
    "We could NOT verify anything," Data replied.  "In fact, we have
eyewitnesses who claim he was with THEM on the planet, during the
time of the incident."
    "What?  What in the devil is going on...?"
    "Commander Adama to Captain "Picard."
    "Picard here.  What is it Commander."
    "Captain, we must talk.  This is urgent."
    Picard sighed.  "Very well Commander.  We can meet here, in my Ready..."
    "No Captain.  I would rather meet with you privately.  Not on the Bridge."
    "Is that necessary Commander?  My Ready Room is..."
    "Yes Captain.  It IS necessary.  I cannot tell you why at this moment."
    "You may meet me at my quarters, Commander," Picard then reluctantly
replied.
    "That will be satisfactory."
    "Picard out.  Data, continue to gather your evidence and work
with Mr. Worf to see if we can obtain statements from the witnesses
on Pacifica and on the Enterprise."
    "Aye, sir."

              --o--

    "Athena, what's gotten into you lately?  All you've been doing
for the past centaur, is talk about Darrion Marks!" Apollo exclaimed to
his sister.
    "But Apollo, he really IS a nice guy!  I like him a lot!  You
know, he showed me how to operate the Holodeck, and you wouldn't
believe..."
    "Here we go again.  What IS IT about this 'Holodeck'?" Apollo
inquired.
    "It's WONDERFUL Apollo.  You can't imagine..." Athena began.
    "It's nothing but a big deception if you ask me.  Athena!  Don't
you understand???  It's NOT real!"
    "Don't knock it 'till you try it Apollo," Athena retorted.
    "Don't worry Athena.  You'll NEVER find ME in there.  It seems
like EVERY ONE of us who's gone in there with that Ambassador, has
come out with their sensors scrambled, INCLUDING Boxey!  Now
HE'S talking about wanting to go back home to Caprica, which I
KNOW he can barely remember, AFTER he went through this whole
production of making ME promise to take him to Earth!"
    "Well, YOU can act like a 'goody two-shoes', spoiled brat all
you want big brother, but Cassiopeia and I are going to enjoy ourselves
for a change... IN the Holodeck!"  And with that, she abruptly left Apollo
alone in his quarters.


              C H A P T E R

              VIII


    Adama sat stiffly on a sofa in Jean-Luc Picard's cabin, staring
at nothing in particular.  Picard placed a decanter of tea and two cups
on the small coffee table and then he slowly sat in a chair directly
across from the Colonial Commander.
    "Captain Picard," Adama began.  "There are things that I need
to discuss with you, some you may not want to hear.  I have debated
over how our people should proceed based on recent events and I
have now made my decision.  Before I tell you what we plan, I do
want to mention a strange occurrence that I have observed over the
past few centaurs or rather, you call them 'days', for which I have no
logical explanation.  Some may consider it paranoia but... have you
noticed that whenever we happened to discuss Ambassador Marks,
he always seemed to mysteriously appear?  Wherever we may be?
    "No Commander, that's not paranoia.  I have observed that
myself.  In fact, we had considered..."
    Suddenly, the door chime sounded.
    Startled, Picard and Adama simultaneously looked at each
other.  The Captain immediately stood and walked over to the door.
He pushed the button that released the lock.  The door opened to
reveal Darrion Marks standing patiently in the corridor, holding a padd
in one hand and patting his leg with the other.
    "Ambassador?" Picard said, feigning surprise.  "What can I do
for you?"
    "Oh, uh, Captain.  Yes, uh, I have a copy of one of the
technical agreements signed today and I was wondering if you were
interested..."
    "Well Ambassador, I was just preparing to retire for the evening.
Perhaps you could return tomorrow morning and I will be very happy
to review it AND also take a look at your artifacts."
    "I see.  Very well Captain.  In the morning then?"
    "Yes.  Good night Ambassador," Picard replied, quickly
touching the lock button again, leaving the Betazoid alone in the
hallway.
    Picard looked over at Adama and motioned him towards an
alternate exit in the cabin.  Adama followed Picard out to another
corridor and then into a turbolift.
    "Deck 6," the Enterprise Captain ordered.
    Adama raised his eyebrow in an unspoken inquiry and Picard
placed his index finger to his lips to indicate silence.  The lift door
opened and the two men walked swiftly down a hallway and then
through the doors of Transporter Room 2.
    Picard nodded to the Transporter attendant who immediately
stepped away.  He then hit his Comm badge and stated, "Picard to
Riker."
    "Riker here."
    "You have the Bridge, Commander.  I will be on Pacifica."
    "Aye sir."
    Picard then tapped a few commands into the transporter controller, set it
for a 5 second delay and then activated the sequence.  He motioned Adama to an
empty pad, and the two men began to dematerialize.

              -----

    Seated in the Main Observation Lounge, Riker, Data, and
Worf continued to discuss their investigations.
    "How could the Ambassador have been with all of them at the
same time?  THAT is impossible," Worf grumbled.
    "You're telling me.  Unless he isn't who or what he says he is.
Data, theorize... are there any species that we know of who are
capable of duplicating themselves exactly?" Riker inquired.
    "We know of a number of species who are naturally
amorphous and who are capable of shape-shifting, however we cannot
rule out the possibility of clones."
    "Clones?" Riker exclaimed, chiding himself for not thinking
about that option.
    "Correct.  That hypothesis could be quickly confirmed by
our internal sensors.  I will perform a sensor sweep of the ship
immediately."
    "I hope that we do find out that he's either one of many clones
or perhaps a shape-shifter."
    "Why?" Worf asked.
    "Because I'd hate to find out that he's neither, considering
how much time I've spent with him," Riker replied.

              -----

    The ship Captains rematerialized in a dimly lit cavern,
located nearly two kilometers below the surface of Pacifica.  Sections
of old scaffolding lay around the cave.
    "Alright Commander.  I should hope that we can work out our
differences here.  I know that this may be a drastic solution for
seeking out some privacy but I'll save the discussion regarding my
qualms about Marks for a later time.  Before you begin, I do want to
say that I have welcomed our excellent working relationship and I
regret that the strain that both of us have experienced has soured
our ability to come to some mutual agreement.  In any respect, I
prefer not to disagree publicly, for the good of both our crews."
    "That is understandable Captain Picard, however, I want you
to know that I can no longer agree to sit by passively and allow
these events to continue," Adama proclaimed.
    "Nor can I allow you to take ANY action that would be
deemed detrimental to the Federation," Picard replied.
    "It has become very clear to me that members of your so-
called Federation have decided that our presence is neither
appreciated nor desired," Adama continued.
    "And your statement, sir, has neither a basis in fact nor
suitable conjecture," Picard retorted.
    Out of the shadows, a tall, dark-haired man approached.
"Excellent.  Excellent.  I see that the two of you are getting along
quite nicely.  Excellent," he remarked.
    "Ambassador Marks!" Picard exclaimed.  "What are you doing...
How did you...?"
    "Marks?"  A calculated pause.  "Oh yes, how silly of me, I
forgot..."  Suddenly the likeness of the Betazoid Ambassador dissolved
away to be replaced by that of a tall and distinguished-looking, older
gentleman, one who you might see mingling with the many dignitaries
of the Federation.  The man was impeccably dressed in a long white
tunic and a matching, floor-length white and gold cape.
    "IBLIS!" Adama cried.  "By all the Lords of Kobol, I was right.
I knew it!  I felt it!  I should have..."
    "Spare us your futile threats and prayers Adama.  I promised
to return and I never break a promise," the man replied.
    "Who are you?  What are you?  What do you want?" Picard
angrily asked.
    "I don't think that you have the intelligence to even fathom who
or what I am, Captain Picard."
    "Captain," Adama injected.  "We have dealt with him before.
We thought that we were through with him.  Apparently we were
wrong."
    "Apparently," Count Iblis responded with a smirk.
    "He represents the embodiment of pure evil," Adama snapped.
    "Such harsh words, Adama, yet your words are of no concern
to me," the stranger said.  "Captain, I have come to extend my
dominion amongst the peoples of your Federation and others', and
such a fertile ground it is.  The people have come to me by the
thousands, thanks to Darrion Marks, and they have accepted me
willingly."
    Frustrated, Picard said "You HAVEN'T answered my question.
What is it that your want?"
    "Why, I HAVE what I want Captain.  I have sown the seeds of
discord amongst your peoples.  They will no longer follow you or your
pathetic Federation Council, but will serve ME.  Together, with Sheba
by my side once more, WE will expand our following."
    "SHEBA?!" cried Adama.  Then it was YOU who killed the
Council President and the others," Adama roared with anger.
    "We had an agreement..."
    "What agreement?!  What are you talking about?" Picard
demanded, suddenly sickened by the memory of his now-deceased
friend.
    "They sold their very SOULS to him, Captain," Adama
explained.
    "How naive you are Adama.  All of them agreed to follow me and..."
    "All of them paid the price," said Adama with disgust.
    "What have you done with Ambassador Marks?" Picard demanded.
    Smiling, the Count replied, "Why the Ambassador and I
ALSO had an agreement.  We first met some time ago.  His persona
has been quite valuable to me.  His assistance, though flawed at
times, was greatly appreciated, particularly with respect to my
dealings with those whom you call 'Cardassians'. How do you
suppose the Cardassians appear to know so much about your
Federation's plans and their every move?  Unfortunately, the
Ambassador outlived his usefulness when he began to show a
'selective amnesia' regarding the bargain that we negotiated.  Sadly,
I was forced to take his place."
    Now somewhat shaken at the implications of Iblis's admission of
the deception, Picard asked, "Tell me, are you a member of the Q
Continuum?"
    The stranger began to chuckle and then he replied, "The Q?
Is THAT what they call themselves for the benefit of your primitive
species?  We are ALL the same, however we exist for different
purposes.  But then again, I wouldn't expect you to understand such
an explanation."
    "Regardless of what YOUR 'purpose' is, I know for a FACT that
all of you are bound to uphold certain, universal laws."
    Iblis began to turn red and he bellowed, "NO ONE RESTRICTS
MY ACCESS!  NO ONE RESTRICTS MY POWERS!"
    Calmly, Picard added, "I will tell YOU what I have told other
omnipotent beings of you kind.  You SEVERELY underestimate the
power of the Human spirit and resolve."
    Iblis quickly discarded his intended response and instead began
to smile with confidence.   He answered insidiously, "Indeed Captain
Picard.  We shall see..."
    He slowly circled the two men and then he began to recite
almost hypnotically, "Captain Jean-Luc Picard...  Son of Maurice and
Yvette Picard... Brother of Robert Picard... Uncle of Rene Picard....
Lover of Neela Darren..."
    Adama immediately stepped up to Picard, grabbed his shoulders
and warned, "He has a forked tongue, Captain.  Do not be beguiled by
his words."
    "DO NOT cross me Adama or I will strike you down where you
stand!" Iblis threatened.  "Captain Picard," he then continued
pleasantly, "I will speak with you now.  Alone."  He gently raised his
hand and suddenly the walls of the cave began to dissolve and reform.
They were now in another section of the subterranean caves.
    Alarmed, Picard demanded, "Where are we?  Where is Adama?"
    "He is safe..." Iblis stated as he paced around the room, head
down.  He paused before concluding, "For the moment..."  He then
stopped, quickly looked up at the Captain, and said, "I needed to
speak with you alone Captain, without him."
    "What is it that you want with me?  I warn you, I will not go
along with your little charade..."
    "Do not antagonize me Picard.  I elect to speak with you out
of courtesy and out of the kindness of my..."
    "KINDNESS????  You BUTCHERED my friend.  You have
POISONED the minds of MY crew with sweet words that will only
result in bitter consequences!  You have PROJECTED yourself into
our sub-conscious' and into our dreams, only to deceive... "
    "Captain, what I am about to offer you is power that no mortal
possesses.  Power to go anywhere you wish, be anyone you wish,
do whatever you wish.  It is quite a generous offer."
    "At what price?" Picard angrily retorted.  "My soul?  My free will?"
    "Price?  I see that you have been reading too much into your
ancient writers' fantasies.  All I ask is your cooperation."
    "MY cooperation?  For what?  To participate in the disintegration
of our already tenuous relationships with our enemies?"
    "YOU!  PICARD!  WHERE is your open mind?  What has
HAPPENED to your love of exploration and discovery?  Your
fascination with the unknown?  Your appreciation of other cultures?
Your exposure to Adama and his ilk has dulled your senses.  I offer
you the chance to..."
    "By divine, universal law, I am guaranteed the RIGHT to
choose and I choose not to join you."
    "Perhaps another can convince you to listen with reason..."
Iblis announced flatly.  He suddenly disappeared, leaving Picard
utterly alone in the darkened cave.
    "Jean-Luc?"
    A voice, soft and familiar.  A woman's voice.
    "Jean-Luc?" the voice whispered again, this time from a
direction behind him.
    Picard slowly turned around and listened.
    "Ici, Jean-Luc.  S'il vous plait.  Va ici.  J'ai besoin
d'assistance.  Viens vite!"
    "Mammon?  Tu va bien?  Ou est-tu?"
    "Jean-Luc," the pleading voice continued.  "Please, over here."
    Picard stumbled over some rocks as he crept through a
small entrance to an adjoining chamber.  There, perched on a large
boulder, was his mother.
    "Mammon, you aren't supposed to be here.  Why are you
here?  What is happening?"
    "Oh, Jean-Luc.  Don't you know?  Many things have happened
since I spoke with you last.  You must be very careful," the elderly
woman cautioned.
    "But Mammon, things have not been going well.  My friend..."
    "Jonathan?  He wouldn't listen.  He tried to break the bargain.
You can NEVER break the bargain."
    The now disoriented Captain of the Enterprise said, "What?
What bargain?  What are you talking about?  Mammon please, I
need your help.  I need your strength..."
    All of a sudden, the old woman disappeared and was
replaced by a younger one.
    "Neela!  What are you...?  How did you...?"
    "Jean-Luc.  It's alright.  I'm okay.  I wanted to be with you
again.  Don't you see?  HE made it possible," Commander Darren
stated with glee.
    "Who?  Who are you talking ab..."
    "You know who.  He can give you anything you want!  Anytime
you want!  He can..."
    "NO!  I will not listen.  You are NOT real!" Picard exclaimed,
turning away from his former love.
    "But I AM real," Neela insisted.  "Look at me Jean-Luc.  Touch me."
    "NO!"
    She walked over to him and grabbed his shoulders, turning
him around to face her.   LOOK at me!"
    "NO!  End this madness.  Leave me alone!"
    Picard broke free from her grip and scrambled towards a narrow
entrance to yet another cave.  A sole figure stood silently in the
center of the chamber.
    "I have tried to make this as pleasant as I could Picard, yet
you have resisted my charitable offer," Iblis admitted.
    "You will never break my spirit, Iblis," Picard defiantly
proclaimed.
    The tall man paused for a moment and tilted his head slightly
to the left.  He then looked over at Picard, focusing his burning eyes
directly at the Captain.  "YOU believe that you know who I am.  I will
SHOW you who I am..."
    With that, he disappeared again.
    "Uncle!!  Uncle!  Over here!"  This time a child's voice.
    Picard turned around to see his nephew Rene, climbing over
a few rocks to reach the center of the room.
    "I will no longer fall for any of these parlor tricks..." Picard
tried to convince himself.
    The boy suddenly slipped and fell hard on the damp floor.
    "Rene!" Picard instinctively cried out.  He then hesitated, once again
feeling disoriented and confused.  "I WILL NOT..." he said in his mind, trying
to fight off the desire to run over and help the boy.
    "Uncle!  What's happened?  Why am I here?  I was out in the
fields with Father and then all of a sudden a man appeared and
then he waved his hand and now I'm here!  I'm scared."
    Picard stared at the boy.  "Is he real or not?" he debated.
He briefly closed his eyes and opened them.
    Rene now standing, tried to wipe the mud off his clothes.
He then began to shiver in the cold, damp air.
    Unexpectedly, debris began to fall from the ceiling of the cavern.
Then the ground began to shake violently.
    "UNCLE!!!" Rene shouted in fear, frantically trying to cover his
head with his arms.
    "Over here!  This way!" Picard replied to the boy, as he grabbed
him and tried to shield him from the large chunks of stone that crumbled
around them.
    The cavern floor began to split open beneath their feet.  Flames
roared up through the crack as if the planet's innards were celebrating
their new-found freedom.
    Rene suddenly fell through a new crack in the floor and Picard
dropped to the ground, grabbing the boy's arm to keep him from falling
into the fiery abyss.
    "RENE!  HANG ON!" the Captain shouted, as the ground began
to shake even more violently.
    A large rock fell from an overhang onto Picard's leg and he
gasped as the intense pain shot through his body.  He struggled to
hang on to the boy as he felt himself slowly sliding towards the edge
of the fissure.
    "Rene!  Grab onto my other arm!  Hurry!"
    "I can't reach it!"
    Suddenly the crack opened wider, sending Picard over the edge.
He clung on to an outcropping and groaned in more pain, as he began
to feel his shoulder dislocate from the weight of his nephew.
    He frantically tried to establish a foothold on the loose, rock
sides and upon finding one with his good leg, he heaved himself up
and over on solid ground, as the flames began to flare up around his arm.
    "RENE!  Grab hold!  Come on!"
    "I CAN'T!  I'm going to die!"
    "TRY HARDER!  YOU can do it!"
    "Come lower!  I can't reach it!"
    "Hurry!"
    "Lower!  Lower!" the boy pleaded.  "Give ME your hand!  Give
HIM your heart!  HE can help us!  Please!  Do it Uncle!"
    Dizzy with pain, Picard shouted, "Whh.. WHAT???"
    "Uncle!  Let HIM help us!  It's the only way..."
    Jean-Luc Picard, with tears of agony running down his cheeks,
suddenly let go of the boy.
    "NO!  UNCLE!  NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooo...." the boy
screamed as he fell into the open cavity and was consumed by the
flames.
    Picard rolled away from the opening and curled into a fetal
position as the pain continued to shoot through his body.
    "NO!" he stammered, as he tried in vain to crawl away from the
blistering flames that periodically surged through he crack.  "NO!" he
yelled again more forcefully, and his voice then echoed in the now
silent cave.
    Adama ran over to the broken figure and tried to prop him up
against the wall. "Captain!  Are you alright?" he asked.
    "NO!" Picard cried out again, oblivious to the man who spoke.
He tried to crawl away and continued to  frantically shield his head
from the onslaught in his mind.
    "PICARD!  IT'S ME!  ADAMA!" the Commander of the Galactica
shouted, while vigorously shaking the Captain.  "It's alright!  I THINK
he's gone," Adama then said reluctantly, as his eyes quickly
scanned the area.
    Picard opened his eyes and looked at Adama's face with
disbelief.  He then began to shiver from exhaustion and shock.
    Count Iblis emerged from the shadows, intently watching the
two men.  Adama suddenly turned around, stood up when he spotted
the man, and ran right for him.  Iblis raised his hand once and a
blinding bolt of electricity slammed Adama back against the cave wall.
He painfully slid down to the floor.
    Iblis began to back away slowly and said with confidence, "Rest
assured  Captain Picard, we SHALL meet again."
    Then as suddenly as he had appeared, he was gone.
    "Riker to Picard."
    "Picard here."
    "Captain, sensors have picked up... stand bye... They're gone!"
Riker exclaimed.
    "What was that Commander?" Picard asked stiffly.
    "Sir, we picked up a large number of unidentified 'energy forms',
like vessels, moving past us at upwards of warp 10 or greater.  They're
gone now, sir.  We didn't get much data about them from our scans."
    "Acknowledged Number One.  Put the ship on Yellow Alert.
I will join you shortly.  Picard out."
    "The `Lights'," Adama noted.
    "`Lights'?"
    "Yes, the beings we ran into before.  Kin to Count Iblis, but they
watch him... very closely...  They must have known what he was doing
was wrong and forced him to leave," Adama explained.
    The two ship Commanders, sat silently on the cavern floor, looking
at each other with despair.  After a while, the fatigued Adama spoke
again.
    "Captain, I must apologize profusely."
    "No apology is necessary, Commander," Picard managed, as
he rubbed his eyes and took a deep breath to calm his nerves.  "We will
need to muster all of our resolve to try and woo our peoples back.  I fear
that the circumstances between your people and the Federation have
taken a turn for the worse.  If what he says is true..."
    "Believe that it is, Captain.  As you have now witnessed, his evil
is unrelenting.  Our experiences with him nearly cost us the lives of
our entire population.  If it wasn't for the sacrifice my son made, we
would not be here today."
    "Sacrifice?"
    "I dread retelling the story Captain but I will at least tell you
this: Apollo dared to confront this Count Iblis or whoever he claims to
be, and he 'lost' the battle, so to speak.  But in the end, all of us
triumphed.  At least until now."
    "Lost?  I don't understand," Picard replied with confusion.
    "We really don't know all of the details of what actually
transpired, except that we do know that Apollo 'challenged' Iblis and
was somehow 'killed'.  Apparently those others like Iblis, objected to
the killing and restored Apollo's life.  All my son and his comrades
can remember about the ordeal is that these 'beings' determined that
Apollo's life had been taken wrongfully since he was not a willing
'follower' of Iblis.  It was those same beings who thankfully guided
us to Earth, AND sent him away from us just now."
    "Hmm..." Picard sighed.  "Good versus Evil.  The theme plays
itself out."
    "Yes but now the BATTLE of 'Good' versus 'Evil' has once
again resurfaced.  We from the Colonies know that battle well."
    The Captain slowly rolled to his knees and remarked, "I don't
particularly subscribe to the notion of 'Good' and 'Evil' as sentient
entities unto themselves.  Rather, I see a tormented, very highly
evolved life form who apparently has nothing better to do with his time.
But then again, since he appears to be immortal, his presence here
will most surely complicate our lives for some time to come."
    Picard struggled to stand up and then slowly hobbled over to
Adama.  He then remarked with resignation, "Unfortunately, he has
single-handedly managed to infiltrate and influence my entire staff."
    "And mine, as well," Adama added, accepting Picard's
outstretched hand as a support to stand on his feet.  "Except for my
son.  From our experiences, one of the ONLY reasons why we were
able to break free from Iblis's powerful grip was because he soon began
to 'call in his debts'.  The Colonists were able to FINALLY see for
themselves, the fraud that he had perpetrated and the deceptions he
created."
    "Adama, I know of only two individuals who could possibly give
us assistance, one of whom I hesitate to call on."
    "Who could possibly begin to reverse the enormous damage that
has come to pass and who or what, may I ask are the 'Q'?"
    "Come.  Let's return to the ship.  There is someone I want you
to meet, and I will also brief you on the Q."


              C H A P T E R

              IX


    "Ib-lis.  Iblis?  Now let me see..."
    "Guinan, this is SERIOUS.  The fate of the Federation depends on it."
    "I see.  And so you expect me, a single individual, to try to
convince the literally hundreds of billions of lifeforms in the Federation,
of his deceit?" Guinan remarked.
    "That's not what I mean...." Picard retorted with frustration.
    "Then what DO you mean, Captain?  Yes, I know who he is
and I have encountered him often enough throughout my lifetime, in
several of his many forms, in fact.  But I must tell you this... Do NOT
take him lightly."
    "You have met Count Iblis?" Adama asked with surprise.
    "I have met a great many people in my life, Commander."
    "How did you not fall prey to him?" the Colonial Commander inquired.
    "Fall prey?" Guinan smirked.  "I `fall prey' to no one, EXCEPT maybe my
Uncle.  He always did find a way to get to me sometimes..."
    "Guinan..." Picard warned.
    Guinan suddenly became serious and cautioned, "Let me give
you some advise.  Humans have a tendency to always expect a miracle
to save the day for them.  Well that's just not going to happen.
You've characterized Iblis's presence here as a battle between `Good'
and `Evil'.  Tradition says that `Good' always triumphs over `Evil'.  But
that doesn't happen automatically, without some effort, or EVEN
without some sacrifice."
    "Meaning..."
    "Meaning that the two of you, knowing what you now know, are
going to have to lead that fight.   What you seem to want to happen
is that someone will come along and snap their fingers like Q, and
then everything will instantly be alright.  Well let me tell you
something.  Don't count on it.  If anything, even if Q DID get
involved, he would only make matters worse."
    Picard sighed heavily and then said, "What you are saying is
that we are going to have to get off our duffs..."
    "And get to work.  In fact, I'd start right now, if I were you,"
Guinan replied.
    "This is going to be very, very difficult," Adama remarked.
    "No one said that life would be a piece of cake," Guinan noted.
    "Well," Picard said with a sigh and a hint of sarcasm, "thank
you Guinan.  You certainly have a way of putting a problem into the
proper perspective."
    "No offense gentleman, but I have found that Humans are very
gullible.  It doesn't take much to win their hearts or their allegiance...
IF the offer is sweet enough."

              -----

    As Adama and Picard stood side by side reviewing a star chart
on the wall screen, they were suddenly startled by a blinding flash of
light that illuminated the Captain's Ready Room aboard the Enterprise.
A familiar voice then rang out.
    "Bonjour, mon 'Capi-tan'... or should I say, mes 'Capi-tans'?"
    Picard turned around and exclaimed, "Q!"
    Playfully, Q replied, "I am once again at your service!  I
believe, 'you rang'?"
    Adama looked with astonishment at the tall, dark-haired man,
dressed in a Star Fleet uniform.
    "So... you need my help," Q continued.  "How touching..." he
said with sarcasm.
    "Not exactly Q," Picard retorted.
    "Oh come now Jean-Luc," Q responded, with a patronizing tone.
"Once again you have managed to get your impotent species and
yourself into a bind from which you will NEVER emerge, and besides,
who would you rather prefer, 'HIM' or me?"
    Adama slowly turned his head towards Picard in disbelief of Q's
silliness, and then he turned back to look at Q.
    Q's eyes quickly shifted position to closely scrutinize the
Commander of the Battlestar Galactica.
    "YOU haven't a clue as to who I am, have you?" Q remarked to
Adama.  "EVEN after mindlessly listening to Jean-Luc's MISERABLE
explanation."
    With a pensive tone in his voice and ignoring the sarcastic
remark, Adama inquired, "Do you know Count Iblis?"
    Q placed his hands behind his back and began to pace around the room, his
eyes never leaving Adama's.  A cocky grin adorned his face.
    "Iblis... Iblis?"  He paused and then began to merrily laugh.
"Is THAT what he's calling himself nowadays?  Ooooo, he's so clever,
so nefarious, SO... nasty."  Q then quickly appeared at Adama's side,
brought his lips close to the Commander's ear, and whispered, "That's
why I like him so."  He then moved away and began to pace again
while continuing animatedly, "Such a charmer he is, 'though he's
DEFINITELY too 'cultured' for my tastes.  Maybe his methods are
not my style, but he IS very, very effective," he concluded, with raised
eye brows and a sparkle in his brown eyes.
    Adama suddenly stiffened with disgust and decided to keep
his opinions to himself.
    "Q, we are QUITE capable of handling our OWN affairs.  All
we want from you is information," Picard explained.
    "Capable of handling your OWN affairs???" Q giggled.
"RIDICULOUS!  You Humans can no more handle your own affairs than
a Pakled can invent their own technology."
    "IS Iblis a member of your Continuum?" Picard asked with impatience.
    "Why don't you ask `HIM'?" was the reply.
    Frustrated, Picard turned away from Q and towards Adama, now overtly
ignoring his uninvited guest.  "This is useless.  Adama, what we will need to
do..."
    "Oh come, come Jean-Luc," Q interrupted.  "Don't just dismiss that.  You
may need my help.  In fact, you WILL need my help."
    "At what cost?" Adama spat.
    "Cost???" Q giggled again.  "COST???  This conversation sounds strangely
familiar.  Didn't one of you ask `HIM' that very same question?"
    "Q, this is serious.  VERY serious.  Now either you cooperate
or leave," Picard threatened.
    "Touchy, touchy aren't we today, Jean-Luc?  If it weren't for
my benevolent mood at this moment, I would turn you into a Klingon
targ so that Worf can have someone to play with.   Those targs DO
have the same IQ as he does, you know."
    "ENOUGH Q!!"
    Now somewhat discouraged, Adama asked, "Can you defeat
Iblis or not?"
    Picard suddenly spun around and looked directly at Adama,
surprised by the frankness of the questioner.
    "Can I defeat him?  Can I...?  Oh, what a silly question!  You
ARE quite amusing, my dear Commander Adama.  More fun than a
barrel of Dimerian water snakes... OR Klingons, for that matter."  Q
then darted behind Picard, bent down, and quipped in his ear, "Jean-Luc,
why didn't you introduce me to this man earlier?"  He then moved away
and returned his gaze towards Adama, suddenly dropping his clown
act, narrowing his eyes, and continuing with a sinister voice,
"Defeat him?  Whatever for?  Besides, we have an unwritten
agreement... we won't interfere with them and they won't interfere
with us, UNLESS..." he briefly paused and then began to giggle
again, "it would serve to make OUR lives... more exciting!"
    "Where is Iblis now?" Picard asked, ignoring Q's nonsense
and pushing his luck.
    "I BELIEVE that after he abandoned his groupies to fend for
themselves at some rendezvous site, he set off to find your friend.
What was his name?  Oh yes, Baltar."
    "Baltar?!" Adama exclaimed.
    Q began to loudly yawn.  He then remarked with a deadpan
tone, "Jean-Luc, this conversation is now becoming quite monotonous."
Suddenly, he perked up again and said, "However... I think I know of
a way to make it more stimulating!"
    "Q..." Picard warned.
    "Wait..."  Q paused and then his eyes began to brighten.
"Yes, YES!!  I can see it now!" he then exclaimed, while he
enthusiastically clasped his hands in front of him with delight.  "OH!
And lucky for YOU that I can be on YOUR side!  He talks about
'games of life, games of death'.  Let's see how creative he REALLY is.
I MUST make preparations!!!  It's been SOOOO long since I've planned
and participated in such a large-scale adventure!  Can't stay!  See
ya soon!  Ta TA!" he said, and with a snap of his fingers, he
disappeared in another blinding flash of light.
    Shaking his head in total confusion, Adama remarked, "What
in the name of Kobol is he talking about?"
    Picard began to frown as he paced around the room.  He
remained silent for a few minutes as he began to contemplate with
trepidation, the meaning of Q's declaration.
    "Captain?" Adama implored, with concern.
    Picard sighed heavily and then replied, "I dread to even utter
ALOUD, what I believe he is planning."
    "I do not understand," Adama responded.
    Picard looked directly at Adama with vacant eyes.  "We are
now pawns," was his only response.
    "Pawns?  Pawns in what...?  Suddenly, Adama fell silent, turned
and walked across the small room.  He then halted and looked directly
back at Picard with a modicum of understanding.  "We cannot agree to
be a party to this type of manipulation."
    "We may have no choice.  It may be too late.  There may be
nothing that we can do about it."
    "But surely you can convince this Q not to..."
    "No.  From our past experiences with him, once he decides to
embark on some scenario that he has created, some event he wants
to occur, he's bound to finish it... to the very end."
    Adama turned away, walked towards the small window in the
room, and said to the vacuum of space, "Then I fear for ALL our
peoples."
    Picard fixed his stare at the fish tank across the room and
replied bitterly, "As do I, Commander.  As do I."

                -----

    Picard sat at the table in his Ready Room, carefully reviewing
the status reports that detailed the ship movements of the Colonial
Fleet.  The door chime sounded.
    "Come," Picard instinctively responded, while continuing to focus
on his viewscreen.
    Lieutenant Worf and Commander Riker entered the room.  Picard
looked up and addressed them.
    "Report."
    "Captain, fifty-three of our crew are unaccounted for," Worf
grumbled.
    "Fifty-three?  Are they still on the planet surface?" Picard asked
nervously.
    "We checked with the Administrators and the local law
enforcement offices on Pacifica and the only conclusive thing that
they could tell us is that a convoy of ships left Pacifica sometime
yesterday.  THEY believe  that some of the ships MAY have contained
Star Fleet personnel."
    "A convoy of ships?  Bound for where?" Picard demanded.
    "They appeared to be heading for Ipus Minor," William Riker
responded.
    Picard now stood and began to walk around his table.
"Ipus Minor?  I recall Commander Adama mentioning that system
as a destination for some of his Fleet's vessels.  That's out near the
border..."
    "Captain," Worf interrupted, "some of my top Security Officers
were apparently part of this group.  In fact, at least two Officers from
the Battlestar Galactica who were aboard the Enterprise may have
also joined them as well.  The only common thing I can recall
mentioned by most of these individuals during the past week was
'Darrion Marks'."
    Picard took a deep breath at the mention of the name.
"Marks... damn."
    "And speaking of him, it appears that HE is missing too,"
Riker commented.
    "So it begins..." Picard softly stated.
    "What was that sir?" Riker asked.
       "It is time that we call a meeting for all Senior Staff.  I will
brief all of you on what has happened," Picard replied.

              -----


Captain's Log.  Supplemental


"Our review of both the Federation's and the Galactica's starcharts
have suggested the possibility of a very unique finding, not only with
respect to the whereabouts of this 'Count Iblis', but also with respect to
the possible point of entry of the Colonial Fleet into Federation space,
after they fled the Cylon attack on their homeworlds.  We have found
that Ipus Minor, a relatively small system on the edge of a minimally
explored region of space near the Federation border, lies near a
quarantined area of space just outside the border, that includes Ipus
Minor's twin system, which the Federation calls 'Ipus Major'.  Ipus Major
is located adjacent to a large subspace anomaly, a magnetic void so
large and so intense that it gained the nickname, 'Bermuda Triangle',
in dubious honor of the mythical area on Earth's Atlantic ocean known
for swallowing up large sea-going vessels and atmospheric aircraft
centuries ago.  After the loss of numerous exploratory vessels in that
area during the Federation's early, routine travel is forbidden there,
and hence few would have observed the appearance of the great
number of ships that may have entered that region over a year ago.

Ipus Major, the site of a large, burned-out star and several Class-M
planets, may be the location of the system where the Colonists
believe they and other Humans are descended, specifically from a
planet they call 'Kobol'.  The little information that we have on the
planets in that system indicated the presence of a vast civilization,
long abandoned since the sun went nova many thousands of years
ago.  We are in the process of requesting special permission to
travel there, not only to try to recover our `renegade' Officers but to
also confirm the identity of the planets and their possible link to the
Colonial government."


              C H A P T E R

              X


    "Father, what you are saying is that ALL along, it was Count Iblis
who we were dealing with and NOT Ambassador Marks?" Athena asked.
    "I'm afraid so," Adama sighed.
    "I knew it!" Apollo exclaimed.  "I knew all along that something
wasn't right with that Ambassador.  I just couldn't put my finger..."
    "No need to cry over spilled milk Apollo.  What's done, is done,"
Adama replied.
    "But Father, I... I... it's MY fault.  I, I helped him and..."
Athena stammered.
    "You weren't the only one Athena.  He deceived nearly
everyone, not only aboard this ship, not only on the planet surface,
but throughout the Federation, including on the Galactica," Adama
sadly explained.
    "The Galactica?  But..." Athena began.
    "Athena, listen to me.  Now is the time for clear heads.  We
have a long road ahead of us," Adama continued.
    "What do you mean?" Apollo interrupted.  "Didn't you say that he was gone?"
    "Yes I did, but I didn't finish.  We recently found out WHERE he
went and unfortunately, it was to Baltar."
    "Baltar?  Why Baltar?  Father," the frustrated Apollo said,
"what is going on around here?"
    "But Father!  Starbuck and Sheba went WITH him!" Athena cried out.
    "It appears that Iblis has successfully drawn us into a
confrontation with the Cylons," Adama concluded.
    "I don't get it.  You mean he...?  Well, what about that group who...?"
    "It gets worse Apollo.  Just this morning, Captain Picard and I
were visited by some very highly evolved, very powerful lifeform who
calls himself, `Q'.  In fact, this `entity' appears to be very similar to
Iblis and his kind.  This `Q' is aware of our dealings with Iblis and has
decided to use us as pawns in some plan he has concocted to
challenge Iblis as to who is `superior' and `more creative'."
    "Now wait just a centon, you mean to tell us that we're about to
be manipulated?  Forced to do something AGAINST our will?" Apollo
shouted.
    "That's right."
    "But Father, we can't... we won't..." Apollo replied.
    "We have no choice."
    "There's ALWAYS a choice.  We can't be forced to..."
    "According to Captain Picard, who has had a number of
encounters with this 'Q', there's nothing we can do about it."
    "Really?" Apollo remarked.  "I'll TELL you what we do.  We don't
go along with this game.  We don't travel anywhere near..."
    "And what if this 'Q' snaps his fingers and we find ourselves in
the middle of a battle?  What then?  Do we retreat?  Do we just sit
there like..."
    "Then we resist!  We cannot..."
    "Apollo, we are bound to follow our destiny.  According to
several passages in the 'Book of the Word', it was prophesied that
before we reach a period of lasting peace in our existence, we must
endure one last battle.  I believe that THIS may be it," Adama
responded.
    "Father, I don't mean any disrespect, but... haven't we ALREADY
fought that battle... against the Cylons?" Apollo asked.
    "Ah... but if you read the passages, you will clearly see that it
mentions a war that would last 'ten times one hundred yahrens', which
obviously refers to our 'Thousand Yahren War' against the Cylons.  As
you read further, you will see where it says that we would join with our
'brothers from the planet Earth', and be involved in one, last great war.
I believe that what is to come, will BE that war."
    The previously silent Athena piped in with, "If that is the case and if
Iblis decides to fight with the Cylons against us, then we will lose."
    "Not according to the prophets, Athena," Adama replied.  "They
CLEARLY state that with the assistance of the Thirteenth Tribe, we
would emerge victorious."
    "But how?" she insisted.
    "With the help of this 'Q'," was the reply.
    "Father, the way you have described this 'Q' character, I'm
not sure if I would WANT him on our side," Apollo responded.
    "Regardless Apollo, HE has determined that HE will fight on
our side, and however obnoxious I feel he is, we must deal with him
from now on."
    "Father, I hope that none of what you are saying EVER comes
about," Apollo said.
    "Oh it will Apollo.  I believe that it is time for the Galactica to
fight one last battle before she is retired, and that battle will come at
Kobol, our mother world.  It WILL happen.  It is our destiny."

              -----

    Commander William T. Riker sat at the conference table,
rubbed his eyes, and said, "Captain, so what you are saying is that
this WHOLE thing was all part of one big deception?"
    "That's right Number One," was the reply.
    "And we all fell for it, lock, stock, and barrel," Geordi LaForge
lamented.
    "From what I gather, hundreds may have fallen for it, thousands
perhaps, over a long period of time, Mister LaForge.  What we must
try to do now is to `neutralize' the effects of the `deception'.  That will
be the hard part.  I have already notified Star Fleet of what has
occurred and they are busy dispatching teams of psychologists to
assist."
    Now nervously stroking his beard, Riker remarked, "Captain,
most of us sitting here had an integral part in assisting this 'Count
Iblis'... unintentionally of course."  He shook his head in disbelief and
concluded, "I can't believe that I was so stupid!"
    "There's no need to blame yourself, Will.  We need to turn our
attention to what Q plans on doing in the near future," Picard noted.
    "Q!  I REALLY don't understand that.  Why has HE decided to
get involved?" Riker asked.
    "Apparently Commander, he has recognized a being similar
to himself and wishes to interact with him," Commander Data surmised.
    "Yes," Beverly Crusher piped in, "using US as his guinea pigs.
Jean-Luc, is there ANY way we can avoid..."
    "Beverly, you know as well as I that trying to convince Q NOT to
do something is akin to telling him to go on and do it.  It's an exercise
in futility."
    "Then that means that we better prepare for war and casualties.
A war that NONE of us is prepared to fight."
    "That's right Doctor.  It appears to be inevitable," Picard replied.
    "If it DOES turn out to be a war against those technologically
backwards Cylons, then we SHALL be victorious!" Worf proclaimed.
    "Not if this 'Count Iblis' equips them with his knowledge of our
defensive capabilities," Riker explained.
    "But didn't Q say that HE would be on OUR side?" Geordi asked.
    Everyone in the room collectively stared at Geordi in disbelief.
    "Okay, so he ISN'T the best ally to have at a time like this, but
that's all we have!" Geordi tried to justify.
    "Counselor, do you have any opinions about this?"
    Deanna stared blankly across the table.
    "Deanna?" Riker prodded, now concerned.
    "I'm sorry.  No Captain, I... I have nothing to add."
    Disturbed, Picard decided not to push it and replied, "Very well
then.  Prepare to break orbit as soon as the rest of our crew has
beamed aboard.   Dismissed."

              -----

    Adama and Picard were reviewing data on a viewscreen when a sudden flash of
light reappeared in the Captain's Ready Room.
    "Q!  What do you want?  You've caused enough trouble..." Picard began.
    "Moi?  I caused YOU trouble?  How silly!  I'm only here to help," Q
remarked.
    "Q, don't do this.  Don't..."
    "It's too late Picard.  It's already begun.  Think of this as a mental
exercise to..."
    "I DON'T NEED ANY MENTAL EXERCISES!" Picard bellowed.
    "Oh tsk tsk tsk, Jean-Luc.  I think it's time to open your mind to what
REALLY lies out there... somewhere," Q replied, with a wave of his hand.
    "Like the Borg, who YOU exposed us to?  Who slaughtered millions of our..."
    "Here we go again.  That's all you seem to care about, isn't it Jean-Luc?
It's those suffering and dying Humans, all... over... again...  At least
Commander Adama is more open-minded and is looking forward to this.  HE
realizes that THIS is HIS destiny."
    "Q, LEAVE him out of this..." Picard threatened.
    "Why should I?" Q replied.  "It's time Jean-Luc, to look beyond
the concrete and the tangible.  Adama seems to have more of an
awareness of what the universe is REALLY about than you EVER
have or EVER will.  Jean-Luc, I am about to take YOU and your
PITIFUL, unimaginative crew, on a journey into what you call the
'metaphysical'.  An experience that is sure to rattle your pathetic,
narrow-minded selves.  A voyage into the..."
    "Q!  That's ENOUGH!"
    "Very well, mon 'Capi-tan'.  But let me give you some advise
and a warning.  If you wish to survive, I suggest that you listen to Adama.
Listen carefully, for what he says and does will be the key to YOUR
future and that of your SORRY band of Human dopplegangers."
    And with that, Q flashed out of existence.
    Picard sighed heavily and looked over at Adama with frustration.
    "Captain?" Adama inquired.
    "It's alright.  Perhaps I WILL take his advise.  You, more than
I, know that part of space AND know about how to deal with those
Cylons," Picard explained.
    "Your assessment is flattering Captain, however it is apparently
untrue, as my people are now here, rather than there, on our respective
planets, due to our LACK of knowledge of how to deal with those
self-same Cylons."
    "Commander, I believe that things will work out in the end."
    "So say the prophets of Kobol, Captain.  But we have much
more turmoil to go through before we come to that time," Adama noted.


              P O S T L O G U E


Captain's Log.  Stardate: 47352.8

"We are enroute back to Proxima Centauri to return the members of the
Colonial government to their convoy.  Our voyage is a solemn one as
we await the occurrence of the confrontation between the Cylons and
the Federation, promised by Q.

Star Fleet has notified us that the entire border area near Ipus Minor
has been designated as off-limits and Federation bases nearby are
on twenty-four hour Yellow Alert, in anticipation of any increased
activity.  Federation monitoring of Baltar's Baseship has indicated
that it has retreated further into Romulan space and may have
encountered a Romulan task force.  Further attempts at scanning in
that area have subsequently been blocked.

At this point, we will go about our normal missions until such time
that we are recalled to assist the Colonists, who will shortly be
transported via warp-capable colonization ships to their selected
destinations.  Picard out."


Adama's Journal:

The U.S.S. Enterprise is on its way back to the Fleet, following a
moderately successful Federation membership conference, where
we have begun negotiations towards our settlement in this part of
space.  Despite the numerous setbacks that we have endured over
the past secton, I believe that we are well on our way to becoming
fully established within the Federation, whether as official members
or not.

What hangs over us at this point is a situation that looms in the not
too distance future, one which will ultimately test our perseverance
and determination.  I feel that the final fulfillment of the great
prophesy as set forth in the Book of the Word is forthcoming and
I pray that we will have the strength to see it through.  Adama out."

---------------------COPYRIGHT/DISCLAIMER NOTICE----------------
This story, _Deceptions_, by B.J. Henry, is a figment of the
author's imagination.  Characters portrayed are fictional and do
not reflect actual people, either living or deceased.

"Star Trek", "Star Trek: The Next Generation", it's characters and
certain technological devices and/or references to such, from the
television show, may be or are registered trademarks of, and may be
or are copyrighted by the _Paramount_Studios_ Corporation.

"Battlestar Galactica", it's characters, and certain technological
devices and/or references to such, from the television show, may be
or are registered trademarks of, and may be or are copyrighted by
the _Universal_Studios_ Corporation.

Neither Studio is responsible for the content of this story.

THIS STATEMENT MUST ACCOMPANY THE STORY _DECEPTIONS_
IF DISTRIBUTED. THIS STORY IS FREE OF CHARGE AND MAY NOT
BE SOLD OR EXCHANGED FOR FINANCIAL RETURN.
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