Back in the detention area, the testosterone level jumped with Lieutenant Barclay's arrival. The tall, lean engineer wandered in, while he wondered what he had done to warrant a trip to the brig.
"You sent for me, Commander?" Reg Barclay asked, a bit more nervous than usual.
LaForge turned, accepted the rifle from the Captain and held it for Barclay to examine. "Yeah Reg. What do you make of this?"
Reg gave his sincere opinion. "Personally, I'd use it as a door stop." Turning his attention to Picard, he quickly added, "I uh, don't like weapons, Captain. They're often used to ruin some of my best efforts." On the other hand, Reg enjoyed a little swordplay now and then, as his Captain---and private fencing instructor---well knew.
Picard allowed a trace of a grin as he agreed, "Right you are, Lieutenant, but I still require your professional opinion of this technology."
LaForge assigned Reg to his task. "Worf and I'll go over this," he said, hefting the rifle. "You go to work on our friend in the cell."
Barclay was shy, but he was also as curious as the next engineer. "Friend?" Reg asked, as he peered around the formidable security chief, at the body in the cage. A shiver went up his spine, as the diagnostics expert gaped at the humanoid form. Barclay wondered what the Captain wanted him to do with it, when his senses caught up to his imagination.
Reg hauled himself up short and turned back to the Captain. "With your permission, Sir I uh, I think I have everything I need for now."
Picard responded in his cool, professional tone, "By all means, Mister Barclay. I'll expect your report in an hour."
Barclay was shocked. Clutching his tool kit, the diagnostics engineer said simply, "Guess I'd better get cracking." He stepped quickly around the Captain, and went to the cell.
The security officer let him into the cell, then startled Barclay by closing the force field behind him. Reg did his best to forget he was trapped in a box with lord knew what, opened his kit and got down to business. After a moment he was both too busy and fascinated by the android to think about anything else.
He slowly disassembled the machine, making notes in a small padd and scanning each piece with a tricorder. One of the first things he learned about the 'droid, was it had come off an automated assembly line. It was all too precise, too uniform, to have been manufactured any other way. As he made note of each part's serial number, Reg found himself wondering how many of these marvels had been built.
Security Ensign Charles Lawrence stood to one side of the cave entrance. Across the dark opening was his partner, a crewmember named Jamesway. As the ensign turned to look his partner up and down, he decided pulling guard duty had its advantages. Today the up side included a tall, willowy brunette as a partner.
Ensign Lawrence turned away from her, suddenly remembering the words of his section commander. Mister Worf had told him, "Losing one's vigilance could mean losing one's head." Lawrence wasn't sure what Lieutenant Worf had meant by the gruffly delivered axiom, but he took it to heart. The lieutenant had been around and knew from where he spoke, and when he spoke, people listened.
The ensign turned his attention to the dirt field, and the stone barricades surrounding it. He went over the important tactical considerations, mulling each threat over in his mind. One by one, he came up with an answer to each scenario. When he was done, Lawrence gave a passing thought to the field's suitability for playing a few innings.
He caught himself doing it again, and stopped immediately. That, he knew, was the trap. A sentry's worst enemy is his own fatigue and boredom. One gets tired, or allows his mind to wander, and something important invariably slips by or comes up from behind and does him in.
Lawrence felt honored to be put in charge of securing the area, even if it was only a dirt field. This was, after all, his first deep space posting. Any assignment off the ship was a promotion, of sorts. Something goes wrong, and help is more than a few decks away. Lieutenant Worf thought he could handle this assignment, so handle it he would.
Standing at her post, Jamesway stretched and complained, "I'm bored, Ensign." Turning his attention to her again the muscular, darkly tanned ensign thought she looked greener than he did. Running a hand through his short blond hair, Lawrence wondered if that were possible.
"I know," Lawrence responded, in what he hoped would sound like the voice of experience, "but I kinda prefer bored to dead."
Jamesway blinked her big, bright blue eyes, then picked a new tree to focus her attention on. She shuddered when she thought of the phaser battle and apparent murders that had taken place in this very field. Not far from where she stood, Commander Riker had been shot down without a chance to draw his weapon. The more she dwelled on recent events, the more she reviewed Lieutenant Worf's cautionary axioms.
Jamesway had felt a little patronized by the lieutenant, when she was first assigned to the Enterprise. At the time she had chalked it up to Klingon culture, but now she could see what the lieutenant had been trying to tell her. In the weeks since she had come to the flagship, Jamesway had discovered Mister Worf's surly behavior masked a wily talent for security work.
Crewmember Jamesway blinked again, and decided she'd stared at enough trees. She peered into the cave entrance, and wondered what could be so important about a hole in the ground when a laser bolt passed through her abdomen.
Jamesway stared at her burned uniform and for a second or two, was not certain of what had just happened to her. The young brunette felt for the wound, and as shock set in she discovered one golf ball sized, neatly cauterized hold. As she toppled backwards, Jamesway thought it odd she felt no pain; not realizing the beam had severed her spine.
Lawrence had been stealing another casual glance at his partner, and saw her take the hit. As she fell, the ensign slapped his comm badge and drew his phaser. He fired a few random bursts into the cavern as he shouted, "Enterprise, emergency! Beam us to sickbay now!"
Lawrence caught sight of a figure moving through the shadows, some fifteen meters into the cavern. Fear turned to anger as he tracked a steady, full power beam on the apparition. With a sense of grim satisfaction, he saw it move toward the entrance and take a direct hit. The phaser beam offered some illumination, and revealed what could have passed for a towering humanoid in heavy armor.
Lawrence watched in horror as the helmeted figure advanced steadily under his withering fire. As it neared the entrance, the armored warrior blocked the Starfleet officer's phaser beam with a large, rectangular forearm shield. The ensign gaped at the hulking monster, watched it center the large muzzle of a huge rifle on his chest, and realized the transporter would snatch him from danger an instant too late.
Captain Picard was still in the detention area when Ensign Ro called from the bridge, "Captain to sickbay, immediately." Without even thinking, Picard chucked the assault laser at Worf and strode quickly from the brig. As he followed Doctor Crusher's footsteps, the Captain slapped his communicator.
"On my way," Picard announced, with a hard edge on his tone. "What's the problem, Ensign?"
As Picard launched himself into the turbolift, Ro elaborated, "The security team assigned to guard the cavern entrance has been fired on, Captain. Ensign Lawrence called for emergency beam-out, directly to medical."
Alone in the lift car, Picard nodded and said, "Very well, Ensign, Picard out." The Captain was still wrought up, but at least he could cross one unpleasant possibility off his list. His first thought was Number One's condition had worsened. Picard wished Ro had made that clear when she first summoned him, but let it go. No one ever knows what one will actually say under stress until the pressure is applied. How well Enterprise's Captain understood that.
Picard's evaluation focused on this, the latest unsavory turn of events. One or two more of his crew had either been injured...or killed. The Captain started to wonder how many more of his crew would fall before he completed this operation, but refused to let himself dwell on the subject. This mission should've been a fairly straightforward affair, but in the last few hours too much had gone horribly wrong.
Picard knew he needed more information, and was tempted to call sickbay from the lift to get a status report enroute. He almost tapped his comm badge, but hesitantly lowered his hand; Picard didn't want to distract his medical staff from whatever treatment they were engaged in. However, he knew a doctor as qualified as Beverly Crusher would almost certainly ignore even her Captain, if she had her hands full.
At last the lift car doors opened, and Picard marched briskly through the crowded passage to sickbay. He entered the reception area in time to find Doctor Crusher lumbering into her office. Crusher's features were long and drawn, her skin pale, her movements sluggish. She took vague notice of the captain, staring at him with misty eyes as she slumped behind her desk. Picard didn't need to hear the words, but Crusher said them anyway.
"Lawrence and Jamesway are both dead, Captain," Crusher told him, somberly admitting what he knew she saw as her failure. She activated her computer, and prepared to make out death certificates as the Captain edged into her office doorway.
Picard admired Crusher and her work, but was fascinated by this side of her personality. He could not fathom how Beverly remained in her profession for so long, when she seemed to take every lost patient so personally. Picard had indirectly put the security team in harm's way and was, as Captain, responsible for their deaths. Yet the depth of Crusher's remorse appeared to run far deeper.
Jean-Luc didn't know why really, but he felt compelled to say, "I'm certain you did all you could for them, Doctor." Picard was startled by the numbness of his own voice.
Doctor Crusher dropped a loosely clenched fist on her desk. In a tone full of pure exasperation she groused, "Both of them were on their first assignment. So young...Lawrence was dead on arrival, but Jamesway managed to say a few words before I lost her."
After letting out a ragged sigh, the doctor repeated Jamesway's last words. "She wanted to tell you personally, Captain, but...she said, 'not major, bigger arm'." As Crusher turned to her melancholy task, she added, "I just hope that's of some use to you."
Picard nodded, finally seeing what struck her so hard about these two. The Captain would never admit it to anyone, but he often caught himself thinking of the crew as his charges---his children. He assumed responsibility for them the moment the set foot on his ship, and now it was he who would write letters of condolence to their families.
Picard thought of his security officer, who had actually chosen Lawrence and Jamesway for the assignment. Worf understood the dangers, but the lieutenant believed they were equal to the task. Worf would know of their fate by now, but the Klingon handled losing those under his command quite differently.
Picard tried to see it the way Worf would. Although they had died in the line of duty---the strongest desire of every Klingon warrior---Picard could not understand why he should be happy. The Captain closed his speculation with a very human rationalization. At that moment, he couldn't help thinking Klingons took their view of the subject for selfish reasons.
Realizing he was dwelling on his loss far too long, Captain Picard shut it all from his mind. He preferred to concentrate on the living, and would pay his respects to the fallen when there was time. Only then did he begin to feel his rage. There was no reason to lose two good people, and Picard wanted to know what had gone wrong now.
Picard turned away from his CMO, as Captain Matthews and Lieutenant Worf entered the medical section's reception area. Picard put his anger and frustration in a virtual chokehold, so he could get his words out. In a voice that was as cold and smooth as wet ice, Picard said, "I just lost two security people. Are we even close to learning why this is happening?"
Matthews seemed somewhat uncertain, but decided to answer anyway. "Not really, Captain. We have a few more pieces to the puzzle, but we're not sure how they fit together just yet."
Worf shifted his weight from one foot to the other; a movement Picard found reminiscent of a student waiting for the teacher to call on him. The Captain was in no mood to hear the question the Klingon desperately wanted to pose, mainly because Picard lacked an answer.
Worf's need to know burned through his restraint. "Have the perpetrator or perpetrators been identified?"
Although he saw it coming, the question still unsettled Picard. He knew his security chief to be a rational, loyal Starfleet officer, but Worf had an animal nature to him, bred into his race. The Captain realized his security officer was almost certainly planning to avenge his lost subordinates but what troubled Jean-Luc, was he wanted revenge too.
Picard informed his lieutenant, "Crewmember Jamesway was able to point the finger away from the major." The Captain noticed no reaction from the major's granddaughter. Were he not so preoccupied, Jean-Luc might have found her composure illuminating. Glancing at Matthews was almost like looking in a mirror.
Picard led the two officers further into sickbay where Doctor Sterling and Counselor Troi stood, on either side of a biobed occupied by his first officer. Although Number One was asleep, and his second officer and chief engineer were not present, Picard believed he had enough senior officers available to conduct a short meeting. The Captain stood at the foot of his first officer's bed, and cleared his throat. The staff officers moved away from Riker, and clustered around the Captain.
Doctor Sterling's demeanor caught Picard's attention almost immediately, and distracted him from asking his first question. She had got into a fresh uniform, combed her hair and now, as usual, looked quite the professional.
What was gone, at least for the moment, was Sterling's cavalier attitude. For the first time since she had come aboard, Picard saw Sterling wear a stone mask that did not slip. Oddly enough the Captain found himself wishing she would offer some tension breaking, flip remark, but none were forthcoming. With neither the time nor inclination to wait for one, Picard forged ahead.
In a calm, dispassionate tone, Picard opened with, "Jamesway said something about a, 'bigger arm'. Speculation, anyone?"
The huddled officers stared at one another in strained silence, as each of them mentally worked over the clue. Just as Picard had begun to feel he'd introduced a macabre word game, Lieutenant Worf perked up.
The security chief asked tentatively, "Do you suppose it could mean a larger, better armed mechanical warrior?"
Matthews was quick to add, "That could be a big problem, Captain. The one Worf and I tangled with took almost everything we had to stop it. What if we were only dealing with the basic unit?"
Picard saw Matthews had not yet changed from her muddy, torn uniform, and wondered how much of a fight one android had put up. The thought of a larger, more powerful war machine had him concerned for the safety of the Enterprise itself.
Ignoring her question in favor of his own, Picard asked, "Was there anything useful in the major's safe?"
Matthews held up the little greed computer padd. "Only this. I'll have to puzzle out the major's access code to activate it, but that shouldn't take long. I'm convinced he left this for me, Captain."
Captain Picard quickly decided on a course of action. "Fine. Get into a proper uniform and relieve Ensign Ro at Conn. I'm going to get the truth from Governor Solek." Picard didn't mention he would have his answers, even if it meant squeezing them from the colony governor. Instead, the Captain continued issuing orders.
"Monitor the cavern entrance with ship's sensors; I'll lose no more of my crew. Let's go, Counselor." Picard turned and headed out, with Troi close behind.
Worf fell in behind them. Picard was so angry and intent on having at Solek, he didn't care if his security chief invited himself along. He assumed Matthews had ordered Worf to escort him---just as well. Picard silently railed against Solek; feeling very much as he'd guessed Matthews had last evening.
Jean-Luc Picard would have an explanation; and if he couldn't get a straight answer from Solek, Worf would.
Captain Matthews watched them leave sickbay, then moved away from Riker's bed. She winced again, as she pulled herself onto the primary biobed in the center of the room. Watching Picard was a sad reminder of her last ship, but at least Picard could hope to find someone, or thing, to strike out at. Those who had killed over half her crew were gone, destroyed by Riker and the Enterprise.
It might be criticized by some as a primitive, uncivilized outlook, but Angela truly wished she could have been in on the kill. Perhaps it was her childhood or combat training, but somewhere along the way Matthews thought she had picked up a drop or two of Klingon blood. Mulling it over, she decided there were worse things to have in one's system.
Doctor Sterling's stone mask remained in place as she crossed the room to examine her friend. "I told you to skip your workout today, Angela," the doctor reminded her. As she began therapy for Matthews' strained back and neck muscles, Sterling added, "You know how I hate do-overs."
Forcing a grin, Matthews responded, "I certainly intended to follow your advice, but something had other plans for me."
Sterling was not impressed. "I see." Glancing at Riker, Sterling caught herself with an unhappy thought. Angela thought she had something to discuss, but the look on Kate's face implied she wanted to be sure the commander would not overhear.
The doctor continued to vibromassage Matthews' injury but in a quiet, sobering tone, Kate began, "Angela, did Will ever mention being offered the Tirpitz?"
Captain Matthews stiffened with a reflexive 'what about my ship?' in launch position, but clamped her teeth around it. Even so, her reaction was not lost on the doctor. As Kate came face to face with her, Angela looked her friend in the eye. "No---at least, not to me."
Sterling looked every bit the messenger with bad news. "But you agree, as first officer of the Enterprise, he would have made the short list of candidates for the job?"
Matthews wasn't certain where the doctor was leading, but sensed her uneasiness. In these cases, it was generally best to let a person tell her story at her own pace. Angela resolved to do so, even though the suspense was driving her to distraction.
Angela's strained response was, "That would seem to follow."
Sterling didn't want to be the one who told this tale, but must have felt Angela had to know. "Will's a little disappointed, Angela. He's convinced he was never considered for command of the new galaxy-class starship." Kate's tone became somewhat defensive as she added, "I only bring it up because unresolved disappointment might effect the commander's recovery." Angela saw that as a half-truth; Sterling truly felt a select few of the commander's friends might help him deal with his letdown.
Captain Matthews inquired, "I assume you've already brought this to the counselor's attention?"
Sterling's reply was quick, and matter of factly offered. "Oh yeah. I was talking it over with her when we...got busy." The doctor got a grip on herself quickly, seeing no point to dwelling on her latest failure. Angela was sure there had been nothing Sterling and Crusher could do for the lost security team, but admired the dogged determination of both doctors.
Better to worry about the living; but Matthews made the situation a bit stickier. "If it's that important, then there's something you should know. To my knowledge, the short list for command of the Tirpitz was a grand total of two names, and I assume I got it because Captain Picard turned it down."
"Uh-boy," Kate sighed. Her voice lowered to a near whisper as she added, "That's not gunna help much. I know Will loves this ship and his position in it but still---well how would you feel in his place?"
"Lousy." Angela didn't need to think it over. "Of course, it's an honor to serve aboard the flagship of Starfleet, but Enterprise isn't out here alone." Matthews employed the dreaded A-word, as she continued, "I don't know, Kate. I suppose you could call me ambitions, but I've always wanted to command my own starship---any starship. Hell I didn't care if I ran the Earth/Mars shuttle service, so long as the ship was mine. Is that vain?"
Sterling cracked, "You? Angela, have you looked in a mirror lately?" You're walking around in a torn, filthy uniform with a platinum rat's nest on your head, stooped over like a hunchback with a phaser on your hip; oh yeah, you're real vain."
Angela couldn't help herself; she let go a long, hard laugh, but tried her best to keep it low. Angela's laughter managed to crack Sterling's stone face as well so it served both of them, without disturbing Will. The boy needed his rest.
"It's good to hear that dopey little monkey laugh of yours again, Angela," Sterling confessed.
Matthews explained, "Now you know why I want you on my ship. You could always make me see the funny side of anything, Kate. Times like this are one of the reasons I need you with me."
"Oh, that's interesting," Kate Sterling replied, "I didn't know starship captains needed anyone."
"You know better than that, Kate." Angela's laugh had faded, leaving behind a warm residue of satisfaction which shined through as a smile. "A ship captain only asks for the impossible; it's the crew who pulls it off."
Sterling's grin broadened. "And you were worried." Tugging at her uniform collar, Kate added, "By the way, thanks for this." Indicating the lieutenant commander's rank insignia, she observed, "You certainly didn't waste any time, now did you? Leads me to believe you don't want me to get away."
Angela confessed, "I wanted it to be a surprise."
"Oh, it was that," Kate assured her. "For a moment, I didn't know what to think; Doctor Crusher stuck this little blip on my collar, gave me a hug and told me to look in on Will. Some promotion ceremony."
"Okay," Angela promised, "We'll party on the holodeck when this mission's completed."
Kate was back to her old self. "Great! Data, Barclay and I have been writing a new holodeck program. We'll try it out before you and I leave."
Angela Matthews sighed, then turned almost serious. "Kate, do you know Mister Data very well?"
Kate stepped away from the biobed, and packed away the tools of her profession. "Well not in the biblical sense, if that's what you mean."
Angela shifted a bit, gingerly testing the treated muscles. As she slid off the biobed, she clarified, "No, that's not what I meant." Matthews paused to consider the doctor's statement, then filed it away for future reference. "I was wondering how committed he is to staying with the Enterprise."
Kate spun around. "You offered him a job too? What did he say?"
"I offered him the first officer's position on the Tirpitz," Angela verified. "He said he would give my offer due consideration. I got the feeling he wanted to talk it over with his friends."
Kate thought quickly, then inquired, "Where's Data now?"
"I sent him to help Geordie with the 'droid I sent up."
"Perfect," Kate responded. "We should have the good word soon. Personally, I hope he says yes."
Angela wished she could be that positive, but she had a sense Data's answer would disappoint her. Being back aboard Enterprise a while now, had begun to remind her how it felt to be posted here. This ship got under an officer's skin. It was a good feeling; a sense of family, friends, and something else Angela couldn't quite put her finger on. All she could remember at the moment was how hard it had been for her to leave Enterprise.
Once again, she thought about Riker. She could see him spending the rest of his career on this ship, perhaps even assuming command when Picard eventually retired but then, Picard loved his ship as much as everyone else. Having had a taste or two of starship command, Angela could easily picture Picard keeping the big chair forever.
A gruesome image flashed through her mind; the skeletal remains of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, propped up in the center seat and still issuing orders. Angela realized with a start she could just as easily see herself in the same setting. The only difference in the mental picture was the ship's name.
Angela finally remembered why she had to leave this ship, and this crew. She had been offered a position that would bring her a step closer to her dream, and had the strength to take it. It was a little depressing to leave the Enterprise but then, serving aboard the flagship had its drawbacks as well. This was a very special ship and crew, but Enterprise was not destined to be hers. It had saddened her to leave, but Angela knew she had made the right choice.
Right or wrong, leaving Picard's ship was similar to ending an addiction---or, Matthews supposed, a dependence. Walking the passages, she remembered how easy it was to fit in on this vessel. Enterprise wasn't simply a ship, it was a community.
Leaving was one of the hardest actions Angela could remember taking. Yet it seemed coming back was tougher still. Matthews was startled to see so many familiar faces; friends she'd left here years ago. She could almost convince herself they had been waiting all this time, to welcome her back into the fold.
Angela silently reminded herself she could never stay aboard. Like it or not, she'd grown beyond Enterprise, and there was no going home again---at least, not this time. Angela was surprised to find a part of her still longed for such a permanent assignment, yet she knew it could not happen. After all, there was a botanist assigned to her old cabin.
Angela decided she had to get back to her own ship, and soon.
The away team beamed directly into the colony governor's office. With Troi to his left and Worf on his right, Captain Picard took a long look around the unoccupied room. Worf was running a tricorder scan, ostensibly searching for anything hostile, be it hidden weapons or surveillance devices. The Captain wasn't sure what he'd find here, and was now glad to have Mister Worf along.
For his part, Worf didn't really need Matthews' order to insure Picard's safety. It was a rare occasion for the Captain to lead an away team, as the first officer usually talked him out of it. Having a slightly different perspective on the practice, Worf thought nothing of Picard's decision to beam down. Of course, it was his duty to see the Captain stayed out of trouble; Picard was, after all, only human.
Counselor Troi chanced a brief glance at her Captain, not wanting Picard to realize he had her attention. While she understood this was his place, Troi wished she could have convinced the Captain to simmer down before rushing into this confrontation. There was no doubt in her mind the meeting would become intense, as the Captain attempted to extract the truth from Governor Solek.
Troi had gone over and over what she had been able to learn about the colony, and its leader. Solek was a man motivated by profit. While it was an arcane view that often led to irrational acts in the past, she couldn't see what Solek hoped to accomplish by calling on Starfleet for assistance. Troi knew he was hiding something; not merely holding back information but outright lying. He must understand Captain Picard would eventually discover this deception, so why begin it in the first place?
She remembered the feeling she had gotten from Solek, when he contacted the Enterprise with new information. Solek, and his fear and hatred of the major troubled Troi. At a distance it was difficult to accurately read a person; certain subtle nuances were lost in subspace transmission. Also, the limited viewer angle prevented her from applying other skills, such as a full read of body language. Yet despite such handicaps, Troi was certain Solek was lying to them; about what, they would know soon.
Searching for any sort of key to the governor's personality, Troi stepped away from her companions and drifted about the room. A person's space told much, to a trained observer. Surveying the office, Troi found little to center on, which was in itself a place to start.
The away team had beamed into a large, airy room with big rectangular windows. The walls were a light gray, with bright red trim highlighting the otherwise unadorned window frames. Aside from the red paint, there was remarkably little in the way of décor. No paintings, two-dimensional vids, curtains or sculpture---no artwork of any sort. No flowers or live plants to liven up the area, either.
The counselor turned to Governor Solek's desk. That his desk was against the wall, and somewhat removed from the windows was not lost on her. It was a corner office, with glass panes offering a view across from and to the left of the governor's work area.
The desk itself was a remarkably clean piece of plastiform furniture, slightly smaller than the conference table in the Enterprise command level observation lounge. The desktop was well polished and uncluttered, with only a computer terminal and an antique pen and pencil set taking up space.
Turning her back on the desk and its comfortable, high-backed chair, Troi assessed the rest of the room. She found herself leaning against the only piece of furniture in the office. Deanna tried to find an apt description of the governor's workspace. She went through minimalist, simplistic, unencumbered and functional, before she hit on the perfect, single word description: barren. Data's quarters had more personality to them.
Troi pushed off the edge of the large desk, and shuffled to a window. She raised a hand to the pane, and thought it felt like real glass as she gazed through it, at the scenery of Sendatius Minor. Sitting at the desk it would be difficult to enjoy the view, but standing by the glass was a treat in itself.
Before her a carpet of blue/green rainforest spread out from the horizon, holding a border on the orderliness of the plantation itself. Tufts of thin, wispy white clouds spread themselves throughout a periwinkle blue sky. Bright golden sunlight seemed to make the cool, unbroken treeline of the forest sparkle. A breeze whispered through rows of nearby chakka trees, making their leaves sparkle as well. Troi thought it almost like daytime fireworks.
The counselor turned away from the breathtaking beauty outside, focusing on the office. Standing now with the desk to her far right, Troi faced a set of large, red double doors, which appeared to be the only entrance. Troi turned to her left and walked to the other big picture window, and discovered another equally beautiful panorama. From there Deanna could see row upon row of chakka trees, forming an orchard that extended to the horizon.
Looking straight down, she admired the carefully manicured lawn and gardens outside the building. The well kept grounds were no surprise to the counselor, as the estate did not merely serve as the governor's office, but his residence as well. There was a small courtyard three floors below, with a fountain in the center of a paved, gray stone path.
Admiring the majestic beauty of the house grounds, Deanna could see they mad up for the Spartan nature of the office interior. Perhaps that was as Solek preferred it; to create his art in the land, rather than his home. If so, it might explain many things---if Troi could learn why Solek was trying so hard to deceive them.
At first glance, the warrior looked far too large to move with such grace. Three meters tall and one meter across the shoulder manipulators, the machine prowled through the trees as it had been programmed to do. Utilizing randomly vectored shifts in course, it nevertheless maintained omnidirectional, audiovisual surveillance.
As it weaved through the forest, it was aware it's irregular exterior coloring provided ample camouflage from a distance. The machine had activated its countermeasures equipment, the instant it detected scanning beams from the orbiting enemy vessel. Up to that particular microsecond, it was certain it had thus far gone undetected.
The warrior picked up a different radiated beam on its tracking network; onboard datafile identified it as a primitive matter teleport transmission. It paused, descended to one armored center-leg joint, and lowered the stock of its massive primary weapon to the ground. The warrior scanned the perimeter, quickly located the beam, its origin and termination points.
Logic dictated a reassessment of the mission. The warrior targeted the beam’s termination point, and employed a passive visual scan to avoid detection. Three more enemy units had arrived, this time at the residence reported by recon units. The machine scanned the building and grounds, and within seconds it prepared a complete threat assessment.
It scanned the three unarmored enemy units, and discovered only two were armed. The third, framed in a wall transparency, presented a viable target. It could not lock onto the others with only visual scan, but all were within range. There were seven unarmed, possible noncombatant units within and five unarmed units on the open ground around the structure. It detected several light, unarmed air transport vehicles, but none were currently prepared for operation.
The biological enemy units in and about the building were unaware of the warrior's presence. Few of the enemy units were armed, and no combat vehicles or equipment were in evidence; the installation did not meet minimum target criteria. The warrior's programming dictated bypassing the site, but it kept it on file as a possible command and control center: a secondary target.
The warrior rose, and proceeded to its primary target.