Title: Questions Author: Vek Talis Fandom: ST:TNG Year: 2369 Genre: Mystery/Action Length: 4 chapters & an Epilogue Disclaimer: I don't own Star Trek and never will. Notes: This is a fic-gift for @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Sorry about the distinct lack of snark, Ny, but that's the nature of these characters: snarkless. I hope you enjoy anyway. 1 Saxophone in hand, Will Riker strode toward the Holodeck. It had been a while since he'd had some practice in an appropriate setting. With the Enterprise en route to Bajor for some negotiations, he might not get a chance to play again for a while. Waiting for him, Data cocked his head at the commander. "Commander Riker, I am curious," the android said. "What is it, Lieutenant Commander Data?" Will asked his shipmate and friend. "We will begin negotiations with the Bajorans soon," Data said as Will punched in the information he wanted on the Holodeck. "That's right," Will said. "Based on what was purported to have been done to the planet and people by the Cardassian Union, why there are those who desire to still remain attached to the Cardassians gives me pause." The android knew much more about what it was like to be human than he had when Will first met him. Still, he had a long way to go to become more human. "Some people certainly benefited from the occupation," Will said. "The Cardassians wouldn't have been able to reap so much destruction without some Bajoran help. Don't you think those who supported the Cardassians from the shadows would be more interested in their return, as well?" "'From the shadows'?" Data echoed Will's words. "Does Bajor's climate permit for a higher average of cloud cover than other planets, Commander?" Will chuckled, touched Data on the shoulder. "I meant, there were those Bajorans who openly supported the Cardassians, and those who covertly, or behind the scenes, supported their regime." "Ah," Data said. His albino eyes darted back and forth as he processed. "Thank you, Commander." Before Will could invite Data into the simulation he was about to call up, the lights on the Enterprise dimmed, red replacing them. Captain Picard's voice thrummed through the corridors. "Red alert; senior personnel to their stations." The alarm that replaced his voice was shrill. "Time to go, Data," Will said, setting down his saxophone beside the Holodeck console. A passing crewman without urgent business would recognize it and take it back to his quarters for him. On the bridge, Will walked into a storm if ever he'd seen one. Several small, under-powered Bajoran ships, mostly salvaged hulks once belonging to the Union and made spaceworthy again with roughshod repairs and lots of prayers, closed in from different side. One fired a warning shot across the Enterprise's bow. As he took his seat beside Picard, Will whispered, "What's going on, Captain?" "Obviously, the Bajorans are upset about something," Jean-Luc said seriously. "We haven't been able to find out why, yet." Projecting his voice, he said, "Mister Worf, hail them again." "Should I charge weapons, sir?" Worf asked. "Under no circumstances, Mister Worf," Picard said sternly. "Hail them again." He stood, rearranged his jacket, and stepped forward. At last, an angry Bajoran face appeared on the viewer. "I am Colonel Sayn of the Bajoran Militia." "I am Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise, Colonel," Picard said. "Why have you fired on my ship? The Federation was asked here by your government to begin talks." "That was before your people kidnapped one of our leading politicians," Colonel Sayn said. At that, Will stood, took a step forward to stand behind and to Jean-Luc's right. He cast a glance to Deanna Troi, still seated at the captain's left. Slowly, her eyes flicked to Will, and subtly she nodded her head. Will took that to mean she believed the sincerity of the Colonel, no matter how ridiculous his accusation might be. "How may we assist you in this crisis, Colonel?" Captain Picard asked, as Will knew he would. Colonel Sayn punched a button and sound from his end of the communication ceased. Will watched his lips move, wondering what he was saying to subordinates, or superiors – or both at once. Surely the Bajorans didn't think they could defeat a Federation starship. It would be ridiculous to even try and close off their one avenue to freedom. Will walked around and up the ramp, to stand beside Worf. He watched the stalemate and the weapons console with interest. If there was a fight after all, Worf would do his best to take down the enemy shields and disable the vessels. After a few uneasy minutes, a sound indicated mute had been removed. Colonel Sayn glared at Picard. "My superiors don't believe your ship was personally responsible, Captain Picard." The three warships' weapons powered down; Will watched it happen on Worf's console, before returning to the captain's side. "Our leaders will continue with the talks, while providing you one chance to help find our lost soul." Colonel Sayn still glared; he clearly didn't think much of his orders. "I am instructed to take your investigators to the site of Dainel Nace's disappearance, and then escort the delegates to the Enterprise for the talks to begin." Abruptly, he cut communication. Jean-Luc turned to Will. "Commander, take Beverly and Data and discover what has happened," he said quietly. "I don't have to tell you how important it is we find this Dainel Nace." "No, sir," Will said, then nodded. "We'll get to the bottom of it." He gave the captain his most confident smile, then turned it on Deanna, before heading toward the turbolift. "Data, you're with me," he said as he walked. "Are you ready, Doctor?" Will asked Beverly Crusher as she hurried into the transporter room. Her medical tricorder clung to her left hip. On her right, a small medical pack hung, in case of emergency. "Ready as I'll ever be, Commander," she said confidently. "Let's deflate another crisis and leave Jean-Luc looking like a miracle worker, again." She smirked and Will grinned back at her words. To himself, Chief O'Brien smiled, but lowered his head to the transporter console. Data was the only one who didn't quite get it. A tricorder was attached to one of his hips, a phaser on the other. "Energize, Mister O'Brien," Will said. When they materialized at the coordinates the chief had been given, Colonel Sayn and a fit, attractive woman, also in Bajoran military uniform, stepped forward. "This is my attache, Captain Kira Nerys," Colonel Sayn said gruffly. "She will go with you to ensure you do no more harm to our people." "We'll find Mister Nace, Colonel Sayn," Will said. The Colonel glared, more fiercely than before, then turned to Captain Nerys. "I must escort the delegates to the Enterprise. Be alert for their treachery." With a last heated glance at Will, the Colonel stalked from the transporter room. Captain Nerys gave the Federation officers a sympathetic look, then turned to her transporter operator. "You have the coordinates?" When the man nodded, she held out her arm to Will. "If you please?" Will, Beverly and Data returned to the transporter pad, Captain Nerys joining them. "Energize," she said. Again, Will rematerialized on a different vessel. This one looked less like a military ship and more like a civilian transport. Before he could give orders, Captain Nerys touched his arm. "Commander, before we go any farther, I wish to apologize for Colonel Sayn's manner. We Bajorans have learned to rely only on ourselves, and it's difficult to welcome outsiders." "It's all right, Captain Nerys," he said. The Bajoran looked at him funny. "What? Have I offended?" Nerys looked from him to Data, then to Beverly and back. At last, a light of recognition sparked behind her eyes. "Perhaps you don't know that we Bajorans use our family names first. I'm Captain Kira and our missing politician is Mister Dainel." "I'm sorry," Will said, remembering Ensign Ro Laren; he tried not to blush. "I won't make that mistake again, Captain Kira." Kira nodded, then led the team out of the transporter room of this new vessel. "Mister Dainel didn't really have a title; we've only just begun putting together a provisional government," Kira explained as they walked. "He was traveling to an outpost on one of our moons when he went missing." "Colonel Sayn suggested the Federation was responsible," Will said. "How does he suspect that? I didn't think there were Federation vessels that arrived before the Enterprise." "A few goodwill ships carrying supplies have been here," Kira said. "Humans from Earth, especially, moved in while some Cardassian ships were still leaving orbit. Some here resent their presence as much as we did the Cardassians." "I'm sure they meant no harm," Beverly said. "I believe that," Kira said gruffly. "That doesn't mean my superiors do." She led them to some quarters. "This was where Mister Dainel was staying when he disappeared." Will nodded to Data and Beverly, who went into the quarters. "What else can you tell me about Mister Dainel," he asked Captain Kira. She reminded him, a little, of Deanna, though much about the two women was different. Kira stared at him for a few moments, as if gauging whether or not to say anything. At last, almost in a conspiratorial whisper, she said, "He is very pro-Cardassian. Dainel has been agitating for a return of the occupation." Will sucked in a breath. That would complicate matters. If they couldn't find him, or if he was truly dead, the pro-Cardassian factions might gain notoriety and strength in the provisional government. The Federation very much wanted Bajor to join. "Will." Beverly stuck her head halfway out of the quarters. "May we speak with the Commander in private, Captain Kira?" "Of course." Kira walked across the hallway, her hands clenched behind her back. When Will entered the quarters, Data was still scanning with his tricorder. "What is it?" Will asked. "Over here," Beverly said, drawing his attention to one of the beds. "There's some cellular residue consistent with a phaser set to kill." "That's not good," Will said. "Can you confirm it belonged to Dainel?" "Working on it," Beverly said. "What have you found, Mister Data?" Will asked the android. Data was busy scanning some scorch marks on the wall nearby. "I have determined the weapon to be consistent with a Mark One Federation manufactured phaser," he said. "Do you have anything else?" Will knew Data pretty well. The way the android continued to scan, even after he'd made his report said there was more to the story. "One moment," Data said. "Will," Beverly got his attention. "Preliminary results indicate this was Mister Dainel's DNA," she said. Then, her tricorder beeped. Almost simultaneously, Data's did as well. "That's strange," she said. "What?" Will felt very much out of his league in the moment. He'd been trained for a leadership position; of course he knew some science and medical, that was part of being a leader to have at least an understanding of what your people did. But, he also knew how much he didn't know about specifics. He needed to wait patiently to hear what his specialists had to say. "Some interesting readings, Commander," Data said. "I do not believe this is the end to Mister Dainel, though I cannot be certain of the details at this moment." "Beverly?" Will hoped he might get better answers from her. "I suggest we return to the last place Mister Dainel was seen alive, Will," the doctor said, absently. She and Data continued to analyze and exchange information on their tricorders. "Captain Kira," Will called. In moments, the svelte officer hurried into the quarters. "Where was the last place Mister Dainel was confirmed to be alive?" Kira brought out a datapad and consulted it for a few moments. "I'll take you there," she said. This investigation was beginning to get interesting. If his top people said there was more going on, Will had to trust them. Maybe they'd find this fellow alive, after all.