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The midshipman's voice trickled off as he paused, deeply disturbed by what he saw out on the water. "interrupt holoprogram, code Riker Zero One. " Around Picard and Alexander, the old-style holoprogram slowed to a crawl, but this time, due to its partial incompatibility with the modern holosystem, didn't entirely freeze. A cannon puff from out on the water groaned toward the Justina, its flash of fire and violence slowed to a long bright yellow slash, and there it seemed to stay. To their right, the door to the holodeck appeared, opened, and William Riker strode through. "Sorry to interrupt, Captain." "Mr. Riker," Picard sighed heavily, shaking himself back to his other world. "Are you dead yet?" "Yes, sir, I'm dead. Everything went as you planned. The patroller trick was a good one, sir." "Thank you. Alexander, why don't you go get lunch while I speak to Mr. Riker." Alexander glanced furtively out at the ship and the battle, clicking along very, very slowly,then shrugged and nodded. He started to leave, but hesitated one last moment to gaze fondly at the paused form of Alexander Leonfeld, the man whose name he carried. The boy seemed unwilling to leave his new hero in such a state. Only the silent eyes of Picard and Riker eventually drove him off the holodeck and on toward lunch. After he was gone, Riker looked around at the nearly still men from the past and said, "Heck of a lesson plan, sir." "Yes, I'm rather enjoying myself, more than I expected to. But you can see this technology isn't completely compatible with ours. It's still moving along. The computer can't completely stop it unless I authorize a complete shutdown. Interesting" "Yes, it is." Riker peered out over the slowly flickering waters at the stranded frigate. "Lose your ship?" "Not mine," Picard said peevishly. "Well? What's going on?" "Oh, sorry. Worf destroyed the drone ship with his usual panache." Riker offered a canny grin. "The freighter had to turn back to Sindikash, so I assume that happened because Worf successfully sabotaged it and kept that shipment from reaching Romulan space. The Rogues didn't make a very good showing for themselves. They're supposed to throw themselves on their swords for Odette Khanty, and they didn't. I guess she wasn't worth dying for." "So she failed to frame the lieutenant governor." "Right. And Worf made it look as if they almost got caught, so now she's not very happy with her Rogue force. That can work in our favor." "Yes. It'll make her desperate," Picard observed. He looked out at the Justina, a template for desperation. Riker nodded. "And now Worf's a hero in Khanty's eyes, because he kept the freighter and the Rogues from being arrested. If she had any doubts about him, she won't anymore." "Perfect. Very good -- very good. What was in that shipment, Mr. Riker?" Riker retired an itch on one ear and said, "We aren't sure, sir. Tainted seed, bogus pharmaceuticals, chemical adulterants -- Odette Khanty's done 'em all. Things would've looked bad for the lieutenant governor, to be attached to a cargo like that. Even Worf couldn't find out what was in that ship, but whatever it was, I'll bet we're glad it didn't get through." Picard nodded and peered out over the barely frozen bay and said, "Poor luck often forces men to fail at their missions. I'm glad to hear Mr. Worf is having better fortunes. Has Mr. Worf been able to maneuver Mr. Grant into an inside position?" "I don't think so. Worf's last communication came through several relays, but he indicated that he is gaining the trust of Mrs. Khanty. He'll find a way to get Grant inside. Even if the Rogues don't particularly like him, they certainly trust him now. He's slowly wheedling his way to the upper levels of security at the governor's mansion, and he's taking Grant right along with him --" The door section, hanging independently in the middle of the forest, parted again. Commander Data strode in, his pale golden face shining in the moonlight of Chesapeake Bay. His catlike android eyes flickered a bit as he spotted them in the trees and picked his way through to the bay shore. "Sir," he said cordially to Riker, then looked at Picard. "Captain." "Yes, Mr. Data?" Picard acknowledged. "I have scanned and reviewed all available information about arms shipments, distributions, contraband, or disposals in the sector, and found no caches of weapons numbering between ten and forty. I am sorry, sir." Picard felt his brow draw, and saw that Riker had the same expression. "Weapons, Mr. Data? I don't recall a need to check records of weapons shipments or disposals --" "The weapons belonging to the passengers of the transport who were killed, sir," Data said, with his innocent manner of reporting facts as he saw them. His amber eyes flicked to Riker, then back to Picard. When neither seemed to know what he was talking about, he pointedly added, "The arms, sir." Riker's eyes got big and his lips pressed flat. "Oh . . . the arms. . ." Picard rubbed a hand over his own mouth to wipe down the gallows grin. Data nodded. "Yes, sir. You said they were missing." Will Riker developed a cough, folded his arms around his chest, and nurtured a sudden fascination with Sergeant Leonfeld's scarlet tunic and white breeches. "Nice uniform," he muttered. Data's childlike face tilted. "Is there some problem, sir? Did I misunderstand? The murdered passengers were disarmed, correct?" Picard looked at Riker and found no help from a man whose knuckles were pressed to his tightening lips. "Eh, yes," Picard began, "they . . . were disarmed. Em . . . Mr. Data, cancel that search for now. I'll give you more specific orders later regarding that . . . Mr. Riker, do you concur?" "Mmmhmm." Riker's back was to them, his arms still folded, one hip cocked. The moonlight silhouetted his head and shoulders. Picard raised his chin. "Carry on, Mr. Data." "Very well, sir." The android turned and strode back through the freestanding doorway. Picard cleared his throat and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, contemplating the vagaries of linguistic communication. Still hugging his rib cage, Riker sidled toward him, eyes a little wide and one brow a little up. "Maybe you'd . . . like some lunch now, sir?" he suggested. "Lunch?" Picard tossed back. "Lunch, Mr. Riker? While my ship is out there being captured? I'm surprised at you, man. Such ideas. I've a mind to disarm you." Riker smiled and nodded. "Have a nice stranding, sir." "See? Right here. The governor was leaning toward independence, but he wanted strong ties to the Federation and eventual readmittance as a full-fledged member planet. Mrs. Khanty wanted no more ties at all. She was careful about it, though. I can only find one time when she slipped and mentioned it while she was talking to a women's club. Let me change this -- there." "Play it." Worf peered over Grant's shoulder in the privacy of their Rogue quarters, where they had set up their computer access terminal. Grant had spent every off-duty hour, including some he should've spent sleeping, digging into the government computer links, trying to find his way to Odette Khanty's private holdings, that "track" he spoke of.
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