Horizon of Thought

Horizon of Thought

Status: Finished

Genre: Fan Fiction

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Fan Fiction

Summary

Stranded on an alien planet, Picard, Crusher and Troi are rescued by a mysterious woman. Picard finds love.

Summary

Stranded on an alien planet, Picard, Crusher and Troi are rescued by a mysterious woman. Picard finds love.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Horizon of Thought

Author Chapter Note

Stranded on an alien planet, Picard, Crusher and Troi are rescued by a mysterious woman. Picard finds love.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 18, 2012

Reads: 460

Comments: 1

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 18, 2012

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[1]

 

Horizon of Thought

 

 

The woman sat on the rock, as she did at the end of each day, and quietly viewed her surroundings. On her lap was a stone, flat sided and slightly abrasive. Her hands worked rhythmically, stroking the shaft of wood back and forth over the stone. The spear tip had already been hardened in the fire, now a sharpness was being created at the tip. She didn’t know why she did it, or how she knew what to do. It was the same with everything in her life. Without memory, or communication, the woman went about her days and nights, living in solitude in the cave behind her, something she had done for a very long time.

On this evening, an odd sound caught her attention. A whine, a roar approaching from behind the mountain, caused the woman to lift her head and watch. It never occurred to her to be concerned, she did not know how. Suddenly something new came into view. She had never seen anything like it before. She watched it stoically as it streaked overhead, smoke and flame trailing in its wake. Over the river it went, its altitude ever decreasing, clipping the tops of the tallest trees and disappearing behind the forest. She lowered her head to resume her task, when a loud noise shattered the gentle evening. Shortly thereafter, smoke smudged the sky. The woman cocked her head, listening, then collected up her things and entered the cave to retire for the night. It didn’t enter her mind that something unusual had happened; she went about her normal evening rituals. The last thing she thought before sleep claimed her, was more meat was needed. She thought this in pictures.

 

 

 

 

In the gathering darkness, five kilometres from the cave, silence descended. A small craft lay, totally ruined and gently burning, providing light for the unpleasant scene around it. Three bodies were evident, one festooning a tree, all unconscious. Two women, one with dark, curly long hair, the other with striking red hair and a bald man, their uniforms slowly disintegrating on their bodies, as they lay unprotected, revealing injuries and their soft skin to the elements. The craft had skipped twice across an eerily coloured lake, the missing front screen allowing hot liquid to enter in a fine spray, soaking the occupants. Now this liquid was eating their clothing. It would soon attack the skin.

The red haired woman on the ground woke first, the stinging of her skin hastening her wakening. Not understanding what was happening, she did what was instinctive and found a small creek nearby and plunged into it, scrubbing herself thoroughly. She then returned to the crash site and dragged the man to the creek and after washing him, went in search of the other woman. It was her moaning that eventually made her presence known. As gently as she could the woman in the tree was lowered to the ground and dragged to the creek to be washed. The man lay where she had left him, still unconscious. Making her companions as comfortable as possible, the woman with the beautiful red hair lay down and wondered, in her shock, where they were.

She soon began to shiver. The three people were naked, even their boots had been etched away by the corrosive liquid. Rousing herself, she moved her companions together and took position beside the man, hoping their combined body warmth would be sufficient to ward of the coldness of night.

 

 

 

 

The night passed as it usually did for the woman in the cave. She awoke, always at sunrise, and completed her ablutions quickly. A simple meal, then she was ready for what was necessary. On this morning, she would go beyond the smelly lake to hunt the stripey animals she knew would be in that area. They were easy to hunt, their skin made good clothes and their meat was soft and tasty. She selected the weapons she would need; her last action was to put a club through the loop of her belt... that she always took. Dressed in soft leather skins, she was warm and comfortable and perfectly camouflaged for hunting. She left her cave and struck out towards the smelly lake. She would pick up the spore near the escarpment and travel along the dry gully. The kilometres were covered swiftly. She would stop occasionally to sniff the air and listen and during one of these pauses, she was alarmed to hear the sound of howlers attacking something. They were aggressive large bipeds she hunted for their luxurious white pelts. Their claws and sinews were also prized, although their meat was mostly tough. It wasn’t often they ventured this close to her cave. Being semi-intelligent, they were aware of her hunting habits and made an effort to avoid her, so hearing them so close was of interest to her. Feeling curiosity rising, the woman changed course and made her way to the thicket of bush from which the sounds could be heard. She was not prepared for what she saw.

 

 

 

 

There were three creatures like herself, all naked. Two were shouting and throwing sticks ineffectually at two howlers who were beating the third creature, curled on the ground. Again and again the howlers raised the stout branches and brought them down upon the helpless victim. Tackling two howlers at once was risky, particularly when they were so agitated, but she disliked what she was seeing, so she decided to intervene. Taking her club in her hand she ran first at the women to drive them back, and having achieved that, she turned her attention to the howlers. True to their name, they lifted their heads and howled in unison, making the woman’s hair stand on end. Brandishing the club, the woman lifted her lip in a noiseless snarl and took a step towards the nervous howlers. After a moment’s hesitation, they took a backward step. This continued until the woman had stepped past the injured creature on the ground. She was aware of movement behind her as the other two women moved forward and retrieved their companion and moved him away. A stalemate ensued. The woman remained motionless; the howlers too stayed where they were, weaving their heads back and forwards in frustration. Finally, with a grunt, the howlers, a mated pair, turned and made their retreat. Bashing the trees and ground with their branches in ill humour.

Satisfied they were gone; the woman turned and faced the creatures she had rescued. She was stunned. The first thing she noticed was the being she had saved was different from the other two. His body was markedly dissimilar and he had no hair on his head, instead he had hair on his chest and stomach, but when her eyes met his, something passed between them. Almost electric in intensity, the woman’s mouth went dry, her heart began to beat rapidly and her stomach felt odd. She stood, frozen in shock. The man was similarly struck. He couldn’t move or take his eyes from her. Comparable symptoms afflicted him and he began a small tremor through his body. One of the women turned to the other and spoke.

“Beverly, what’s happening?”

To which the woman replied,

“I don’t know, but I don’t like it. Can you sense anything Deanna?”

“No, Nothing....from either of them.”

The woman was deeply stunned. These beings could make sounds. She wanted to flee, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the man.

“Captain......CAPTAIN!”, the red haired woman shouted. Then she stood in front of him, breaking the contact. Without a backward glance, the woman turned and fled, running back to her cave. She ran at least a kilometre before she slowed and looked over her shoulder.

 

 

 

 

Beverly bent forward and ran her hand across Jean-Luc’s head.

“Come on, let’s see how you fared. Do you think you can stand?”

Grunting his consent, the Captain allowed the women to help him to his feet.

“Wow, are you going to have some bruises!”

Expertly running her trained hands over Jean-Luc’s body, she stood back and gave her judgement.

“Well, there are some nasty cuts, which really should be sealed, a cracked rib or two and a broken finger, along with the bruising....and I’m not sure about your nose. It’s probably broken...you’ll have two shiners from that. When it’s a little less tender and the bleeding has stopped, I’ll have another look.”

“Deanna’s right arm is broken and she has a corked thigh. As for me, I’ve a twisted ankle and  I have a very sore back, most likely a disc injury. Considering the crash and the attack, we’re lucky to be alive, let alone just mildly injured.”

Jean-Luc raised his eyebrows at that.
“Yes, well.....I don’t feel....mildly injured.....and I certainly don’t like being cast adrift on a hostile planet, stark naked! And don’t you dare laugh, either of you!”

“Is that an order?”

“Beverly.....”

Helping their Captain to sit, the woman joined him on the ground as they discussed what had happened.

“Who do you think she was?” Deanna asked.

Jean-Luc looked off in the direction she had fled.

“What’s more important....where are the others? If we can find her village, maybe we can get some help....and some clothes. She was well dressed and her weapons were both substantial and well made. Beverly, were we able to salvage anything from the shuttle?”

Beverly sighed gently.

“One communicator.”

“That’s it?”

“Yes, but I think we may be lucky. I threw a tricorder out the window. It should be over there.”

The doctor pointed over to the left. Seeing a discreet glance from Beverly, Deanna volunteered to search. After she was out of earshot, Beverly took Jean-Luc’s hand.

“Jean-Luc, what happened?”

Knowing what she meant, the Captain sighed.

“I don’t know. When our eyes met, something happened, something passed between us. It felt....very strong...like I was being drawn to her. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was quite extraordinary.”

Beverly cocked her head and looked frankly at her Captain.

“Well, if we meet her again, maybe we can ask her what it was.”

Just then, the friends heard a triumphant yell from Deanna.

“I found it!”

After Deanna had rejoined her companions, the Captain suggested Beverly scan them all to re-affirm her previous diagnoses and took the communicator in his hand. Looking at Deanna he said quietly,

“Fingers crossed.  Picard to Enterprise.”

Nothing, just static.

“Enterprise, this is Picard. Please respond.”

Nothing.

“They’re either out of range, or the planet has an electromagnetic field that’s disrupting communications.”

Beverly frowned.

“Would that be why our instruments didn’t detect the planet? And what about that buoy? Was it emitting a distress call or not?”

The Captain held up his hand.

“All very good questions Beverly, but, for the interim at least, I think we should devote our efforts to finding shelter....and something to cover ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I’m cold!”

That brought a smile from both women. The three friends helped each other to stand and they moved slowly back to the creek. The chuckle from Beverly was unexpected.

“What?”

“Oh, nothing.....is this what they mean by “fraternising”? And, by the way, your nose is broken.”

“Thanks.”

 

 

 

 

The woman, despite being superbly fit, was out of breath when she jogged into her cave. The lights came on automatically, as she knew they would, and she reached her seat without difficulty. Sitting, she was still dumbfounded by what had happened. She played the pictures repeatedly in her mind, yet all she wanted to do was imagine the man, how he looked, his eyes, his body...so different from hers. She realised she was still holding her weapons and she lowered them to the ground, still lost in thought. They had made noises. Raising her fingers, she gently traced the outline of her mouth. No sound had ever issued forth, not even a whisper. They were very strange beings, so like her, yet so different. They didn’t even know enough not to aggravate the howlers. She snorted. Fools. But she was intrigued. They were naked. It would soon be cold. They would die. This she found disturbing. She didn’t want him to die. Gathering up a skin, she moved toward the cave exit, then stopped. Looking down at the skin, she frowned, and, as an afterthought, took up two more and left. The lights went off exactly three minutes after she had gone.

The three officers had made a bed of fronds and had used the same plant to cover themselves. Within minutes their body warmth and the fronds combined to make them comfortable. It was Deanna who voiced a concern they all felt.

“Is it just me, or are all of us being covered by a thick, sticky liquid?”

Picard threw off his fronds with disgust. He was covered with runnels of viscous white sap, exuding from the frond stems. Standing, he made the mistake of trying to wipe the offending muck off his chest. His hand stuck fast. Growling in frustration, he irritatedly ran his other hand over his head. Unfortunately, that hand had sap on it too. His hand stuck fast. He stood there, naked, with one hand on his chest, the other on his head.

Beverly broke first and her giggling was infectious. Soon both women were laughing uproariously, that was until Beverly slapped her thigh. Her hand, of course, stayed on her thigh.

“What is it with this damn planet?! Toxic lakes and glue in the plants!”

Jean-Luc mustered a chuckle.

“Not so funny now? Deanna, perhaps we should go to the creek. With any luck, this, (he gestured with his chin), will be water soluble.

Having entered the water, Deanna first tried washing her hands, and after a modicum of success, moved to help her friends. With his usual good manners, Jean-Luc allowed Beverly to precede him and it actually took both women a considerable time to clean him. At one stage, the Captain had to remind his CMO that his chest hair was indeed connected to his skin, and was not to be ripped out....in clumps.

Once again clean, the survivors sat glumly on the bank of the creek. With a note of irritation, Beverly asked,

“Now what? We’re back to square one.”

The Captain was fast losing his sense of humour.

“We’ll just have to try another plant.”

“That’s not a good idea Captain. We could suffer allergic reactions all over our bodies. Who knows what could happen.”

“Beverly, if you had scanned the fronds first....”

“Shh! Look.”

The Captain and Deanna stared intently at the tricorder. A silent alarm was activated. It showed an approaching life form.

“What is it? Not those white beasts.....”

Beverly frowned.

“No....fully human....but.....”

“How close?”

Looking up, Beverly gestured to the bush across the other side of the creek.

“Over there, six metres.”

“Six metres? I don’t see anyt......”

The woman moved away from the tree. She heard the gasps from the beings. Silently standing she watched, unmoving, again locking eyes with Jean-Luc. This time, after a short hesitation, he spoke.

“We will not harm you.”

He lifted his hands, palm out, and showed their emptiness. At his behest, the two women copied him.

The woman frowned and touched her lips with her fingers.

Dropping the skins she carried, she lifted her other hand to her mouth.

Quietly, the Captain whispered,

“Deanna....anything?”

“No, Sir. I sense nothing.”

“Can you reach out.....touch her mind?”

Gently nodding, Deanna agreed.

“Yes, Sir. I will try now.”

The woman appeared totally immersed in thought, still touching her mouth. Suddenly she jerked her head up in alarm, her face quickly becoming fierce as her piercing gaze settled on Deanna. With devastating speed, she drew the club and leaped across the creek, advancing on the counsellor, with the obvious intention of battering her to death.

With alacrity, the Captain moved between them, raising his hands.

“Stop! She meant no harm. I asked her to do it.”

The woman adopted a defensive posture, leaning slightly back, keeping the weight on her back leg. She still brandished the club and was trying to see around the Captain. He kept himself solidly between them, sensing that she wouldn’t harm him.

“Please....put down the club. She will not do it again.”

As he spoke, he made a repeated waving movement with his hands to indicate the lowering of the club.

 Eventually, the woman looked fully at Jean-Luc and some of the tension left her. She slowly lowered the club, and after some minutes of silence, stood upright. She was still frowning and her eyes darted restlessly about, but Jean-Luc was sure the danger had passed. Turning gradually to his friends, he advised,

“No sharp movements, everything fluid and non-threatening. It would probably help to lower your eyes every now and then, to show submissiveness, and I think we should stay together.”

The woman was entranced listening to Jean-Luc speak. When he finished talking, she cautiously approached him and looked deeply into his eyes. He maintained the contact for a few moments, then lowered his gaze. She leaned forward a little and delicately sniffed him. She then walked all the way around him, noting with gentle touches, his injuries. Repeating the process with the other two, she crossed the creek, picked up the skins and brought them to the naked humans. She retreated then, allowing the officers to wrap themselves in the soft skins.

Satisfied, she turned and began to walk away, prompting Jean-Luc to call after her,

“Wait! We have been hurt. We must travel slowly.”
As he spoke, he pointed at Beverly’s damaged ankle and Deanna’s hurt thigh.

The woman stood stock still and looked the Captain up and down, then gave a cursory glance towards the women, turned, and again walked away, this time, slowly.

Moving together, the Captain and the Counsellor supported Beverly under her arms and between them started to make a fair pace after the enigmatic woman.

They travelled at a satisfactory rate, the woman stopping to allow rest, and after consulting the tricorder, they knew they had traversed about five kilometres when they came to the base of an escarpment. The woman scaled the rocks easily, the trail only faintly visible, and, after reaching the plateau, looked down at the three officers.

“I hate heights.”

“I know Beverly. I’ll be behind you, just follow Deanna. Counsellor, can you make it with your arm?”

“I think so Captain.”

“Nodding, the Captain, sighed.

“If we wrap these skins around us, leaving our arms free, we should be able to climb up there, no problems.”

“Humph! Easier said than done.....Captain.”

It took considerable time, but eventually all three made it to the top. Throughout the climb, the woman sat, patiently watching. When the friends had regained their breath, the woman turned and walked into a small opening in the rocks. Jean-Luc went first, stooping and putting one arm out in front. He was astonished when bright light suddenly flooded the cave. His companions were also amazed with what they saw. It was more than a cave, it was a cavern. Warmed by thermal springs, it was both clean and comfortable. Without hesitation, Jean-Luc took the tricorder and scanned one of the lights. Frowning he said, without turning,

“Unknown technology. Nothing on record.”

Speechlessly, the “guests” made their way around the cavern. It was divided into distinctly separate areas, each area having a different purpose. Sleeping, food preparation, tool and weapon making, washing, all had its own nook. Everything was clean and orderly. If nothing else, it showed an intelligent mind at work. When the inspection was over, they realised the woman was gone. With nothing else to do, the officers sat around the fire that was gently smouldering in a circular hearth in the centre of the floor. She soon reappeared, dragging several heavy white pelts....pelts they recognised as coming from the species that attacked them.

The woman went to an area near her sleeping place and felt the floor with her hand in several places. Satisfied, she lay out three pelts, putting another three on top. She then turned and left them again.

The friends went and sat on the pelts.

“They’re so soft! Beverly feel yours.”

Beverly was more interested in feeling the floor under the pelts. After a few tries she found an explanation for the odd actions.

“Thermal springs. She was searching for warm spots. Jean-Luc? You’re awfully quiet.”

“It’s those lights. How does a woman, presumably alone, who wears skins and sleeps on the floor, have access to technology we can’t identify? The tricorder couldn’t even tell me how they worked....or what their power source was. I like mysteries, but not this one.”

Before the women could answer, the woman returned, carrying a wooden bowl filled with a steaming liquid and a package, wrapped in a soft skin. Producing a perfectly round, black ball the size of a cricket ball, from her shirt, she set it about half a metre off the floor and let it go. Not only did it stay there, suspended in thin air, it lit up with a bright white light. She went to Jean-Luc and stared at him, then turned and stared at the bowl.

Beverly said gently....

“I think she wants you to go to the bowl.”

Nodding his consent, Jean-Luc walked the few paces to the bowl and, after watching the woman sit, seated himself as well. Beverly made to join them, but the soundless snarl from the woman stopped her in her tracks. She opted to sit some distance away, scanning everything with her tricorder.

“Anything Beverly?”

“Nothing on the light. The bowl contains water. In the pouch, there’s a herbal paste, some organic thread, some animal bone and claws and a quantity of mould that has antibiotic properties. I’d say you’re about to be treated.”

Looking over at his doctor, Jean-Luc swallowed.
“Is it safe?”

“There’s nothing there that will harm you.....Good luck.”

“Thanks.”

With surprising gentleness, the woman cleaned Jean-Luc thoroughly, and, after changing the water, cleaned a small curved object, then threaded it with the fine sinew. She then applied a quantity of paste to the three lacerations on Jean-Luc’s shoulder, back and side. Leaving those areas, she moved to his nose. Jean-Luc drew back slightly, worried as to what she was going to do. Patiently, the woman sat still and waited for the Captain to settle and when he did, with infinite care, she quickly and expertly realigned the broken nose. Jean-Luc let go a yelp of pain and the woman was instantly startled. She scuttled backwards, a look of alarm on her face.

Holding one hand to his nose to stem the slight bleeding, Jean-Luc gestured with his free hand.

“It’s all right....it just hurt a little.....come back....it’s all right.”

With a look of deep suspicion, the woman slowly moved back to where she had been. She sat quietly, one hand on the head of the club. Jean-Luc lowered his hands and head and waited. After a moment, the woman began to clean away the paste, making Jean-Luc realise he could feel nothing from the wounds. The paste had been an anaesthetic. Again, with great care and skill, the woman sutured the wounds....all Jean-Luc felt was a gentle tugging of his skin. When the stitching had finished, the woman applied a salve to his bruises and scrapes, then offered him a warm brew. The Captain quirked an eyebrow in Beverly’s direction and received a nod of consent. He took the wooden cup in both hands and drank the slightly bitter liquid, smiling his gratitude. The woman rose and changed the water, then sat and looked at Beverly.

Swapping places with Jean-Luc, Beverly’s treatment was given with the same care and gentleness. Beverly was impressed with the woman’s obvious knowledge of medical matters, the binding of her ankle she couldn’t have done better herself. Twice Beverly tried to engage the woman in conversation, but the only thing it did was cause irritation, so she stopped, sat still and made herself as compliant as possible, keeping her gaze lowered.

When it came to Deanna, the woman was not so willing to help. She was wary of Deanna, openly showing her teeth in a silent snarl. It wasn’t until the Captain took Deanna’s hand and sat with her that the woman finally, albeit reluctantly, treated the nervous counsellor. The setting of her arm was thankfully quick, nevertheless Deanna swooned with the pain and Jean-Luc had to hold her up. Beverly rose and had taken two steps toward Deanna when the woman rose and drew her club in one fluid motion.

“Beverly! Lower your head and sit down....now!”

With instant obedience, Beverly dropped to the ground, her head bowed.

The woman stood absolutely motionless, the tension broken when Jean-Luc quietly spoke.

“She means no harm. None of us will hurt you.”

He knew she didn’t understand him, yet he hoped his voice, the tone of his voice, would calm her. He kept talking.

“We crashed and we can’t contact our ship. We need your help.”

The woman finally moved and looked down at the Captain. With deliberate slowness, she holstered the club and sat down. Offering the wooden cup, Deanna drank the draught and returned to her bed, where Beverly made her comfortable.

Jean-Luc looked up to find the woman staring at him intently. Lifting one hand slowly, he placed it on his chest, patting gently.

“I am Jean-Luc......Jean-Luc.....you are?”

He pointed at the woman who stared impassively at him.

“Jean-L....”

Without warning, the woman rose and went to clean her implements.

“Well, so much for communication.”

“Beverly.....she just needs time. We’ll get through....eventually.”

Stifling a yawn, the Captain moved to the beds.

“I’m feeling very relaxed Beverly. What was in the drink?”

“A mild sedative. I thought we needed it so I said nothing, it will do no harm. Jean-Luc, none of this makes any sense. How does she know so much about medical technique and the pharmacology of plants? She appears to be alone. Why is that? How the hell did she get here? And what about those lights? You can’t tell me she made those.”

Jean-Luc sighed and shook his head.

“Obviously I don’t know the answers Beverly. Maybe tomorrow we can unravel some of the mystery. Until then, I intend to get some sleep. It’s been a rather long day.”

Divesting himself of the skin, he snuggled between the soft pelts and was soon asleep, as was Deanna. Casting one final look about the cavern, Beverly joined her friends in slumber.

 

 

 

The woman came back into the cavern and watched the sleeping people, eventually leaving to sit on her rock outside. As always, she took something to work on as she watched the descending suns. Tonight she was sewing skins together, making new clothes. Her eyes travelled over the valley, along the river and up to the sky. In her mind she replayed the pictures of the day. They were strange and threatening. She wasn’t sure of the women, but the man....the man....there was something....she frowned, unaccustomed to feelings of confusion. She couldn’t make a picture that matched how she felt so, sighing, she entered the cave and prepared for bed. She needed to get some fresh food tomorrow and she tried to concentrate on that, but the feeling of sleeping with others for the first time caused an uncharacteristic sleeplessness. She finally found rest after she clasped the club under the pelt.

The day dawned wet, cold and windy. It mattered not to the woman, food was required, so she went and got it. She had gathered sufficient roots and wild vegetables and brought down two stripey animals and had returned to her home before the people had woken. She knew they would sleep soundly. Sometimes, when she felt bad, or when the night terrors came, she would drink the steeped herbs she gave them last night. It always made her sleep a long time; she was amused to see it worked the same for them. No smile graced her face, but the pictures she made of them sitting up and rubbing their eyes made her feel warm. It was very pleasant.

Adding wood to the fire, she made bush bread and brewed some leaves to make a passable tea. It was the aroma of freshly baked bread that roused the sleepers. Wrapping themselves in their skins they moved stiffly to the fire. As they approached the woman, she moved silently away, always keeping distance between them. Placed on a large carapace of sorts, was the fresh bread and three wooden cups of tea. Before they settled to eat, each person smiled their gratitude and thanked the woman for their breakfast.

As they ate, the woman left, returning a short time later with bundles of softened skins in her hands. She put the bundles near the fire, then retreated and watched. Jean-Luc was the first to investigate the skins. Holding them up he smiled broadly.

“Yes! Clothes!”

That got the women’s attention. Within moments, the three had retired to different areas of the cavern to put on their prizes. Consisting of a pair of shorts, trousers, shirt and soft shoes, the friends were delighted, meeting back at the fire and marvelling at the fine workmanship evident in the expertly made garments.

“More pieces to the mystery Jean-Luc. These clothes haven’t just been roughly thrown together. These are beautifully made, with great care. We’re not dealing with some ignorant tribal exile; this woman is intelligent and clever. I strongly suggest we tread very carefully.”

Gently fingering the shirt he wore, Jean-Luc nodded.

“I agree. We give her all the space she needs and keep contact to a minimum, especially you Deanna. Let her set the pace.”

“Jean-Luc, there are some things we’re going to have to ask though. I need a bathroom....rather urgently. Do I just go outside, or should I find out what she does?”

“Hmmm, I see your point. I think we should approach her and use gestures.”

Beverly smirked and said quietly to Deanna,

“This’ll be good.”

Relaxing their postures the friends moved closer to the woman. She immediately put her hand on the club. Making placatory actions with his hands, Jean-Luc crouched down to the same level as the woman.

“We need to relieve ourselves. Where do we go?”

As he spoke the words, he put his hand on his groin.

The woman stared blankly, then resumed the vegetable preparations she was doing.

“Let me try Jean-Luc.”

Moving beside the Captain, the doctor gained the woman’s attention by coughing.

Placing her hand between her legs, she crossed her legs and made an unpleasant face.

Without a sound, the woman rose and walked across the cavern, entering a rift in the wall, one of several around the sides.

The officers followed, the automatic lighting showing the way. They soon reached a small room that had a pit in the floor; a smooth, solid beam of wood crossed it. Seeing all the people had entered the room, the woman silently left.

“You first Beverly, Deanna and I will wait outside.”

In ten minutes a much more comfortable trio came back to the cavern.

While they were occupied, the woman had placed a large shell, similar to a giant clam, on the fire. Into it, she had placed an assortment of the vegetables, cubed meat and water. As it came slowly to the boil, she added some green leaves and some ground seeds. Stirring with a small wooden paddle, she constantly sniffed the stew and, occasionally, added more ingredients. When she was satisfied, she covered the shell with another and pulled out some of the fire’s fuel, allowing the food to simmer.

“Beverly, Have you any idea why she doesn’t speak? It’s pretty obvious she can hear.”

“Not really, Jean-Luc. There is something odd though. As I said before, she scans as fully human, but there are some inconsistencies. A few of the tricorder readings show physical abnormalities. I can’t decipher what they are, I would need the Enterprise computers for that, but the fact they exist is cause for concern. As for her voice, there is a significant thickening of the larynx, but I have no idea what it is, or how it came to be that way.”

Deanna added,

“It doesn’t mean she can’t understand us though. I feel nothing from her; it’s as if she wasn’t there. I believe she can’t communicate at all, voice or no voice. In any case, it’s up to us to keep trying.”

“Agreed. She seems to tolerate me best; I’ll have another go at teaching her my name when she’s finished cleaning up.”

“Be very careful, Jean-Luc.”

“I intend to, Beverly.”

It was half an hour before the woman sat and began fitting flights to some arrows. Jean-Luc crossed the cavern slowly and seated himself near her.

“They look good. May I have a look?”

He held his hand out and waited.

The woman looked at his hand, then at the arrow repeatedly, then, with hesitation, offered the arrow to Jean-Luc. He made a show of examining it carefully, then extended his hand and returned it to the woman.

Jean-Luc sat up straight and pointed at his chest.

“Jean-Luc.”

He then pointed at her. The woman looked at his pointing finger, her chest and his, sighed and returned to her work. Jean-Luc decided to try again, but the woman wouldn’t have it. Smacking her hand on the cave floor, she snarled in silence. Not wishing to give up, Jean-Luc again asked to see the arrow. This time, the woman’s expression was closed, cold. The Captain kept his hand extended, smiled and said,

“Please.”

Begrudgingly she shoved the arrow at him brusquely, snorting.

“It’s very well made.”

He practised the flight with the arrow in his hands.

“I bet it flies beautifully.”

He put the arrow down and the woman scowled and snatched it away, adding it to the already completed pile. Undaunted, Jean-Luc continued.

“Where is the bow?”

As he spoke he made motions to show pulling the string of a bow. The woman was dumbstruck. How could he know she had that? The arrows don’t work without it. Could he be a hunter too? Immediately pictures of him hunting came to her mind, and just as quickly, pictures of them hunting together. The images made her feel warm and happy. None of these thoughts showed outwardly, to Jean-Luc she remained a stoic enigma. Rising gracefully, she went to a collection of instruments and retrieved her best bow. She was taking a great chance, he may break it, or worse, use it against her, but she felt oddly about this man, this person so different from her. He made her feel calm and strangely warm. She was still frowning when she returned to the seated Captain. He took the offered bow reverently, amazing the woman by whistling his appreciation of her workmanship. Turning the instrument in his hands he raised his eyes in a silent question. Of course the woman made no answer, but her lack of agitation gave him encouragement to continue. He slowly stood and stretched his arm out, holding the bow by its padded grip. Taking the string between the first two fingers of his other hand, he applied his strength and began to pull the string back. He was surprised at the power in the weapon. It would take great strength and steadiness to use it efficiently. He glanced at the woman with a new sense of wonder. She was watching him with the tenseness of a raptor and her tension didn’t lessen until he gently released the pressure on the string and proffered the bow. He hadn’t seen her stand, as with all her movements, she was silent. She took the bow and turned abruptly and walked to the other side of the cavern. There she picked up a small animal carapace and balanced it on a small ledge. Returning to the Captain, she picked up an arrow, fitted it to the bow and took up a firing stance. Jean-Luc marvelled at her ability to stand so completely still. Taking aim, she released the bow and the arrow whispered on its flight, hitting the carapace dead centre so hard, the arrow pierced the shell, travelling up to half its length until it hit the rock behind it. She lowered the bow and turned expressionlessly to Jean-Luc. To his credit, the shudder he felt was well disguised as he went to retrieve the arrow. Beverly and Deanna had risen and slowly neared the woman. She turned and stared at them, but made no hostile move.

The Captain returned and gestured towards the waiting women. Taking a few steps backwards, the woman allowed the pair to approach. The trio marvelled at the power of the bow and the accuracy displayed by the woman. Jean-Luc held out the shell, and when the woman took it, he motioned toward the bow. The woman went back to the equipment stack and returned with several obviously old arrows. Jean-Luc smirked at the slight and shrugged his shoulders at his friends. Looking back at the woman, he was further embarrassed to see she had put up a much bigger target. She returned and stood, silently watching. With a deep breath, Jean-Luc took up a firing stance and tried to still the tremor in his arm. He let the arrow fly and was gratified to see it hit the very edge of the target, but without enough power to dislodge it. He ignored the giggles from his friends; instead, he turned to the woman and gave a rueful smile. His smile quickly disappeared when he saw the look on the woman. Her mouth was open, her eyes wide, staring at Beverly and Deanna. What was that noise? How did they make it?

“Stay still. I’ve a suspicion she’s never heard laughter before.”

 Facing the woman, Jean-Luc gave his warmest smile.

“It’s alright they were just laughing. It’s good to laugh.”

 The woman snorted silently and returned to the fire.

 The three officers amused themselves for some time with target practice, Jean-Luc pleasing himself by improving markedly, and surprisingly, Deanna proved to be a reasonable shot too.

Jean-Luc was very pleased with this small breakthrough. The woman had shown an amount of trust by letting them use the weapon. It was if she was repaying the trust Jean-Luc gave her when he let her treat his injuries. Added to that was the way the woman had let the women join in, she even allowed Deanna to come near.

Jean-Luc gathered the arrows and bow and put then back in the place the woman had got them from. The trio then seated themselves at the fire. The delicious smells coming from the meal in progress made Deanna’s stomach rumble, causing gentle laughter from Beverly. The Captain watched the woman. She stared at Beverly and lifted her fingers to her mouth.

Jean-Luc frowned.

*How can it be that she doesn’t know what laughter is? Who is she? What has happened to her?*

Jean-Luc’s musing was broken by Beverly. Using gestures, she was asking the woman if she could taste the cooking stew. The woman’s lack of reaction, the three officers were learning, meant consent. The wooden paddle was next to the woman, so Beverly advanced very slowly, and when she was close enough, she sat, fully expecting the woman to move away, as she usually did. This time, however, she stayed where she was. Jean-Luc noted an increased tension across the shoulders and back of the woman, but said nothing. Beverly picked up the paddle and, with Deanna’s help from the other side of the fire, lifted the lid and put it aside. The doctor closed her eyes and drew in a long sniff, savouring the aroma. With a swirling motion, she stirred the stew, then lifted the paddle. It had a slight hollow in the blade and Beverly blew gently on the morsels that sat there. Unable to wait any longer, she gingerly tasted the tantalising food.

“Oh, this is delicious! Here Jean-Luc, taste it.”

The Captain did as Beverly had done and used his teeth to draw some of the stew into his mouth. His eyes closed and he sighed as deeply as his injured chest would allow.

“My word, it is tasty, isn’t it? I wonder when it’ll be ready?”

Deanna was next and she joined her companions in praising the stew. The woman rose and went to the food area, returning with a leather bag. Taking a handful of the contents, she sprinkled it over the stew, then looked at the paddle, then at Deanna, who understood and gave it to her. With another handful from the bag, she stirred the stew, adding the crumb-like material as she went. Within moments, the stew thickened, and when the woman was satisfied, she retrieved some wooden bowls and spoons and began to dish out servings, including one for herself. As they ate, Jean-Luc remembered the unfinished bread from the morning, and putting his bowl aside, went to get it. He shared it out and the four people spent some happy minutes eating the delectable meal.

Delicately wiping her mouth, Deanna asked rhetorically,

“If that was lunch, what will dinner be like?”

Gentle laughter followed, Jean-Luc noting it caused less reaction from the woman.

*She’s growing accustomed to us. Good, that’s good.*

“Jean-Luc, are you going to continue to hail the Enterprise?”

Nodding, Jean-Luc agreed.

“Uh huh. I thought, if I can get up as high as possible, I’d call morning and evening. We won’t be missed yet, we left the conference three days early remember, and I’m not exactly sure where the ship is at this very moment, all I do know is where she will be tomorrow....and that’s nowhere near here. The gravity well of this planet pulled us a long way off course. If they find that buoy, they’ll find us. In the mean time, we’ll just have to be patient.”

As he spoke, Jean-Luc placed his hand on his damaged ribs and grimaced.

“Are they bothering you Jean-Luc?”

“Yes Beverly, but only since we were using the bow. That salve that was used on that area kept me almost pain free. I’ll ask for more.”

Jean-Luc turned to the woman and raised his shirt, putting his hand on the lividly bruised area, and frowning. She cocked her head, put her bowl aside and fetched the bowl containing the salve. Working gently, she applied the soothing concoction, then sat back and looked at the others. Deanna responded first. Rubbing her thigh, she said,

“My thigh is sore. Can you help me too?”

Without hesitation, the woman went to Deanna and applied the salve. Speaking softly, Beverly asked,

“How’s your arm?”

“Actually, it’s good. Since she splinted it, it barely bothers me. I felt it when I fired the bow, but I think that’s fair enough, don’t you?”

Chuckling, Beverly agreed.

Now the woman faced Beverly. She raised her chin, saying,

“Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound. Yes, my ankle hurts.....mainly ‘cause I’m walking on it too much. Go ahead.....treat it.”

Noting Beverly’s tone of voice, Jean-Luc questioned dryly,

“Do I detect a hint of derision?”

“Certainly not! Frustration maybe....but not derision. She’s done a remarkable job; I just wish I knew how.”

After the woman had cleaned away the salve and dishes from lunch, achieved by putting them in a hot agitated pool nearby, she sat again at the fire. Jean-Luc moved close to her and picked up a small twig. In some ash on the floor he began to draw. The woman was instantly intrigued, watching Jean-Luc’s movements intently. He drew the valley and the river, then the escarpment and the cave opening. Pointing with the twig, he began to speak.

“This is the valley and the river outside. Here is the plateau and the cave entrance. I need to get to the top of the escarpment. Up here.”

He drew a line from the cave entrance upward, then he lifted the twig and gestured upwards, his hand above his head. The woman stared at the drawing, at Jean-Luc’s face, then at his raised hand. She started making pictures of the places he drew in her mind, ending with the snow covered cap of the escarpment so far above them. Her gaze settled on Jean-Luc’s eyes.

His eyes make me warm. It’s good. The picture this produced was pleasant and took her mind off what he was asking. Jean-Luc noticed the change and waited patiently, until her eyes cleared. She stood and left the cavern, returning with two long heavy white coats with hoods. Attached to the sleeve ends were mittens. Jean-Luc looked at his friends.

“It would seem it’s going to be cold.”

But the woman made no further preparations. She sat again on her stool by the fire and began sewing, repairing a torn shirt. Beverly offered,

“Perhaps it’s too late to leave now, who knows how far it is. Why don’t we go outside for a while? We’re not prisoners.....are we?”

“Only one way to find out....after you.”

“Ever the gentleman Jean-Luc.”

“Not really, if she’s going to club anyone to death for escaping......well, you’d be first.”

Beverly’s jaw dropped in disbelief.

“One of these days, my dear friend, that dry wit of yours is going to land you in BIG trouble!”

They were still sniggering when they came out of the cave, but the bitter wind and driving rain soon silenced them.

“Ok, plan “B”. We explore the cavern system.”

Deanna spoke up.

“I think I’ll give that a miss. I would like to try and get her to be more comfortable with me. I’ll stay.”

Returning to the warmth of the cave, Jean-Luc caught the woman’s attention.

“We want to see the other caves.”

He made a sweeping gesture with his arm.

“We need a light.”

He pointed at a light on the wall, then pointed at the fissure that led to the toilet.

The woman went to the weapon pile and produced totally black tubular object, about thirty centimetres long. When she lifted it to chest height, it activated, glowing brightly. When she lowered it, it went out.

“I’ll be damned!”

She gave it to Jean-Luc and returned to her seat.

Beverly broke the silence.

“I’ll bring the tricorder; it wouldn’t do to get lost.”

“Indeed.”

The Captain and the doctor were engulfed in the cave wall as they left. Deanna stood a while watching the woman sew. She went to the fire and sat near the woman, on the floor. The woman looked up and stared at Deanna, but exhibited no aggression.

*No time like the present*

Reaching out her hand, Deanna spoke softly,

“May I see your work?”

The woman sat very still, then slowly gave Deanna the shirt she’d been working on. Deanna was impressed with the quality of the stitching.

*People or leather....talented.*

“My mother showed me some ornamental stitches, may I show you?”

As she asked her question, Deanna made sewing movements with her good hand.

An expressionless stare was her only reply, but she took that as consent and pressed on. As she sewed she spoke softly.

“Now you have to know, it’s been a long time since I did this....it may not be very good, but I’m sure you’ll get the idea.”

She completed a row of various stitches and handed it back to the woman. As always, silently the woman rose and left the cavern, carrying the ball light. She returned shortly with a bundle of white suede clothing. Away from the fire, and after checking the floor was clean, she laid out the items she had made.

Deanna’s breath was taken away by the beauty she saw. A shirt, trousers and moccasins, in the softest suede she had ever touched, were decorated in fine stitching, using thin dyed sinews, tiny shells and coloured stones. Across the chest and collar of the shirt, around the waist and down each leg of the trousers and across the top of the shoes. It must have taken hours and hours of painstaking work. Deanna had never seen anything like it.

“We must show the others. This is so beautiful.”

As she spoke she smiled warmly. The woman folded the clothes and put them on a stone shelf near the food area. They settled back at the fire, the woman resumed the repair of clothing, Deanna working on a shirt the woman had given her.

Some hours passed, Deanna dozing on her bed, the woman preparing bread and fruit for tea, when Jean-Luc and Beverly returned. They gave the woman the tubular light, then went and cleaned up for dinner.

As they ate, Beverly and Jean-Luc described what they had seen. Jean-Luc was very impressed.

“This is a vast system of caves. We went as far as we dared, but it extends way into this whole mountain range. There are mineral springs and ponds everywhere. Some of the ponds are still, some roiling, there is boiling water and tepid, and to the west, there are glacial streams with ice edges.”

Beverly nodded vigorously.

“Yes...and we found her fridge! She has a smallish cave not far from here that’s literally freezing. In it, she’s stored meat, some whole carcasses, bread, all sorts of things...Speaking of bread, this is really yummy.”

The woman had produced some wild honey and the four of them were drizzling the honey over the warm bread. Licking his fingers, Jean-Luc said,

“There is an area for showering; she’s even made a toothbrush!”

Deanna looked quizzically at her Captain.

“You know, she’s demonstrated a lot of trust in us. She lets us use her things, we can come and go as we please....we’re depending on her for everything, and so far, she’s been exceptionally generous.”

“It’s true. We should try and help her with things....if she’ll let us.”

Deanna nodded at Beverly.

“That’s a good idea, but we should take things very slowly.”

When dinner was over, Deanna picked up her plate and that of Jean-Luc and Beverly. Smiling broadly at the woman, she went to the cleaning pool and put the plates in the water. The woman watched silently. Beverly went to the food area with Jean-Luc and together they cleaned up after the dinner preparation, joining Deanna at the cleaning pool. Again, the woman watched silently. Gesturing to her friends, Deanna led them to the folded white clothes.

“Wait till you see this.”

Raising a questioning eyebrow at the woman, Deanna gently unfolded the clothes, to the delight of her friends.

“My God, Deanna, this work is exquisite. Look at this, Jean-Luc. Can you imagine the hours it would’ve taken to do this kind of work?”

Jean-Luc was deeply impressed by what he saw, yet he found it hard to take his eyes off the woman. She made him feel....different. He couldn’t put a word to how he felt, all he knew was that he liked it. As he watched, Beverly went to the woman with the shirt in her hand. Without thinking, Beverly reached out and gently gripped the woman’s arm. The reaction was instant and violent. In a blur, the woman jerked her arm free, grasped and twisted Beverly’s arm and had her on her knees crying out in pain within seconds. Jean-Luc immediately shouted,

“NO! Let her go....please, she meant no harm.....please, let her go, you’re hurting her.”

The woman continued to twist Beverly’s arm, staring down at her implacably.

Beverly lowered her head and began to groan. Jean-Luc’s distress grew and it showed on his face. The woman looked up from Beverly and saw the anguish on the Captain’s face. They stared at each other momentarily, then without warning, the woman released Beverly and walked away. Falling to his knees, Jean-Luc took Beverly in his arms.

“Are you alright? Did she break you arm? Oh God, Beverly.....are you alright?”

Cradling her arm with the other, Beverly managed,

“I’m ok. Nothing broken. What the hell went wrong? What did I do?”

Deanna squatted next to Beverly.

“We have just been shown, rather emphatically, not to touch her. She obviously won’t tolerate it.”

“I didn’t know! How can we avoid this sort of thing? I don’t want her to do that to me again.”

The woman watched from some metres away. She took little notice of anything except the way the man held the woman. The pictures in her mind were dark and disturbing. She didn’t like it. Turning on her heel, she left the cavern. She had no need of the light. She knew her way perfectly, turning and ducking where needed. After a walk of nearly half a kilometre, she dropped to her knees and wriggled through a short tunnel. She made the correct turns and entered her special place. She stood upright and let the gently glowing rainbow of light play over her. Covering the walls, roof and floor were millions of tiny creatures, each photoelectric, glowing through the spectrum. They fed on a soft, spongy covering, allowing her to lie and be cradled by the lights. Interspersed throughout the grotto were beautiful gems and nodules of gold. She was unaware of their value of course, they simply added to the beauty of the place. At the back wall, a warm stream entered high up and fell with a gentle splashing, flowing across the floor and exiting through a tunnel the woman knew, led to a spa like pond on the other side. The woman settled on the floor, leaned her head back and unfocused her eyes, making everything a blur of prismatic light. She felt herself relaxing and she drifted in her mind, creating beautiful pictures. It was the middle of the night when she returned to the cavern.

 

 

 

 

When the friends awoke, the woman had already left to hunt, the only clue she had been there, was her missing club. After making themselves some breakfast, the women went to shower, and when they finished, the Captain took his turn. Feeling refreshed, they went out onto the plateau and waited for the woman’s return. The weather had improved markedly, though it was still quite cold, despite the suns which beamed down. The Captain saw her first.

“There she is!”

“Where?...I think you’re seeing things Jean-Luc.”

“No he’s not Beverly, look beside the big tree at the river’s edge. She’s standing there watching us. I wonder how long she’s been there?”

“Are we sure we cleaned up properly? I want to make a new start....try somehow to avoid what happened to Beverly.”

“Jean-Luc, that cave is as clean and neat as my sickbay!”

“Good, Beverly, that’s very good.”

Beverly noticed that the Captain seemed a little distracted, but let it pass.

The woman climbed up to her guests, looking at no one except Jean-Luc. It was there again, the warmth. They all entered the cavern single file and the trio waited to see what the woman had brought down. From a large bloodstained plaited bag she carried over her shoulder, she took out three furred animals about the same size as a medium dog. Jean-Luc noted each kill had been made with a head shot, the arrows having already been removed. With a questioning glance, Deanna reached down to grab onto one of the hind quarters, when the woman suddenly gripped her arm with vice like pressure. Panicking, Deanna shouted,

“NO!”

And tried to pull away. With her other hand, the woman pointed at the hind leg of the animal and Deanna stopped her struggling.

Jean-Luc said softly,

“What is it?”

With her foot, the woman lifted the hind leg, then reached down and pulled back the skin. There exposed was a deadly looking spur, a drip of venom at its tip. She then extended the animal’s neck, showing two more spurs and a wicked row down the spine. By this time the woman had released the counsellor, who stood, massaging her wrist. Moving to stand in front of the woman, she lifted a hand, careful not to touch, and said gently,

“Thank you.”

The woman looked at her and Deanna was sure she felt satisfaction coming from her. What she was not prepared for was the exchange of strong feeling when the woman caught the Captain’s eyes. They stood motionless, each looking deeply into the eyes of the other, and Deanna felt a distinct rush of desire from both of them. Beverly too sensed something was happening, but was unsure what it was. The moment passed, broken when the woman lowered her eyes and left to go to the gutting room. Jean-Luc watched her leave with the carcasses and sighed.

“Go with her Captain, she may need help.”

Jean-Luc looked sharply at the counsellor, then relented and smiled.

“I believe I will counsellor, thank you.”

As he left, Beverly moved close to Deanna and whispered,

“What’s going on?”

“You haven’t noticed?”

“Well, he’s been a little distracted lately.....especially when the woman’s in the same room...you’re not telling me he...and her...that they...both...”

“Yep. In fact, they both do everything except light up. It’s funny though, at any other time, I can’t sense her....at all.”

“Well, I’ll be damned.”

The two friends wandered over to the food area, idly chatting, oblivious to everything else.

In the gutting room, the woman was pleased when Jean-Luc appeared.

“What do we do?”

He pointed at the animals. The woman took a sharp bone knife and exposed the hind spur. Carefully cutting, she removed the spur and its venom sack intact, repeating the action on the other leg, the neck and down the spine. Jean-Luc watched entranced. He liked they way she moved, decisively cutting, gripping and twisting. It must have taken a lot of practice to perfect. Having accomplished that task on all three animals, she hefted the carcass and hung it, back to the wall, on a sharp wooden peg, piercing the base of the skull. Using the same bone knife, she slit the body from throat to genitals, stepping back as the entrails spilled out in a slithering wet rush. The offal was of little use, so, using a thin shell like scoop, she shovelled the mess into a hole in the corner. Jean-Luc listened, but didn’t hear anything. Next she skinned the carcass with ease, setting the skin aside. Then, after removing the longer sinews and tendons, she dismembered the carcass into manageable portions. Having seen it done with such ease, Jean-Luc was worried he might make a mistake, but the woman guided him with infinite patience and before long the three bodies had been dealt with. Jean-Luc looked down at himself, then at the woman.

“Good God. We look as if we’ve been in a charnel-house.”

He made the action of washing himself and the woman looked back at the entrance.

“To the shower? Lead on.”

Arriving at the shower, the woman stripped off her soiled clothing, completely undaunted by her nakedness. The Captain was not particularly worried about his own nakedness, it had never bothered him in the past, but with this woman....the way he was beginning to feel, he wasn’t so keen. However, he had little choice but to join her, which he did with pleasure. She picked up some fern like plants from the shelf and rubbed them vigorously together. Jean-Luc was delighted to see suds forming. He had been introduced to coltsfoot. Jean-Luc stayed under the shower long after he was clean. He stayed because the woman was so obviously enjoying herself. Unnoticed, Jean-Luc was able to admire her, her body, her grace, she was captivating. He reached up to rub his face and encountered his beard. With distaste he felt the strong bristles, so he cleared his throat and achieved her attention.

“Have you got anything sharp enough to remove this?”

He pantomimed shaving. The woman reached up tentatively, unsure whether or not to touch him. Lifting his hand, he took her hand in his and very gently placed it on his face. The touch sparked fiery stabs of pleasure in them both. Jean-Luc quickly drew a sharp breath; the woman leaned her head back and closed her e


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