DOPPLEGANGERS

by Enola Jones



Captain's Log, Stardate 48108.9. After a particularly harrowing two days, the Enterprise is en route to Deep Space Nine for some well-needed rest. Since the station is on the frontier, I have ordered a drop to warp one. This will enable us to reach DS9 in one month. This will give us ample time to rest.

Starfleet has somewhat reluctantly agreed to this order, at the formal requests of both myself and Doctor Crusher. After all, one can only push even the best crew so far without a concerted break.

As for myself, I am taking this time to indulge in more ... personal interests.

~~~~~~~~

The white charger raced at a full-tilt gallop beside the river. Jean-Luc Picard smiled as the horse effortlessly leapt a fallen tree. He loved the feel of the wind in his face and the bouncing of the saddle on horseflesh.

But he noticed the charger was beginning to breathe heavily. Sighing, he brought it from a gallop to a gentle trot. He was bringing it to a walk when a communications channel came on in Holodeck Three.

"Data to Picard."

Picard sighed and brought his horse to a stop. "What is it, Mister Data?"

"I believe you should see this for yourself, sir. It would seem we have a bit of a puzzle on our hands."

Picard slid out of the saddle and removed it from the charger. Whenever Data classified something as a puzzle, it usually meant they were in for trouble. "On my way. Picard out." He turned somewhat regretfully to the charger and petted its strong neck. "Until next time, my friend. End program."

The holodeck faded to grid and Picard exited, carrying the saddle.

~~~~~~~~~~

"Report, Mister Data," Picard snapped, entering the Bridge and dropping his saddle at the base of Tactical. He studiously ignored Worf's scowl and Troi's grin at his riding attire.

Data and Riker turned to face Picard. Picard moved next to Riker, standing behind the android. Data observed, "Interesting uniform, sir. British equestrian?"

"Yes, Data," Picard said. "What is this puzzle?"

"That, sir," Data said, nodding to the viewscreen.

Picard raised his eyes to the viewscreen, and an eyebrow shot up. "Well," he said, "this is a puzzle. isn't that the Pike?"

"Yes, sir," Riker said. "Whole and intact. Two life-signs aboard, but so far they have ignored our hails."

Picard frowned. "But the Pike was destroyed."

"Yes, sir," Data said, "when Mister Fajo tried to add me to his collection." Picard could have sworn Data shuddered at the memory.

Picard moved to his chair and sat down. Before he could say anything, Worf looked up from Tactical. "Sir, they are hailing us. Voice only."

"Patch it through, Mister Worf," Riker said. "Let's hear our mystery guests."

After a second, static erupted on the Bridge, punctuated by a lovely contralto voice. "...Federation vessel... --ed help ... crippled by wormhole.... Riker and.... Soong....please help us...." Then there was only static.

Picard looked at Riker. "Do you know her, Number One?"

Riker shook his head. "I've never heard that voice before in my life."

"Well, she certainly knows you. 'Soong'?"

"Possibly a reference to my father," Data said. "Though what he would have to do with Commander Riker..."

"Well, Mister Data, you were right," Picard said, rising to his feet. "This certainly is a puzzle. Bring them into Shuttle Bay Two. Perhaps then we can find some answers. You have the Bridge, Number One." He moved to Tactical, retrieved his saddle from under Worf's foot, and exited the Bridge.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Seconds later, Geordi LaForge contacted Picard. "Captain, the shuttle is aboard. It is the Pike."

"On my way, Lieutenant." Picard tapped his communicator once more. "Number One, Counselor Troi, Mister Data, Doctor Crusher, Mister Worf. Please join me in Shuttle Bay Two to welcome our guests."

A chorus of On my way"s greeted his ears as he quitted his quarters.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When they reached the shuttle bay, the Bridge officers found Geordi bent over one of the Pike's nacelles, conferring with a slim brown-haired woman. Her face was hidden by tufts of hair that had slipped from her ponytail. She wore a yellow uniform and, Picard noted with a slight smile, gloves of a silvery pale the same shade as Data's skin.

Then Picard's attention was drawn almost magnetically to the woman leaning on the side of the shuttle scrutinizing the workers. Her black hair was drawn back in a rather severe braid which served merely to accentuate her lovely features. She wore Commander's rank. Picard frowned. There was something vaguely familiar about her....

He cleared his throat loudly. The Commander turned and smiled. She leaned over and said something to the other woman, who nodded. Then the Commander walked over to the Enterprise officers.

No, Picard realised with a start, she wasn't walking. She strode! Her head tilted at a rakish angle, she smiled broader at him. "Well, Captain, I must say, that was quite a rescue! I would like to contact my ship and let them know we're all right."

"Of course," Picard said. "Welcome to the Enterprise. I am Captain..." Then he realised she was no longer listening.

The smile froze on her face as her magnetic blue eyes widened. "What... ship... did you say?" she asked, her voice quivering just a bit. Picard repeated the name of the ship, and she nodded. I thought so. Excuse me, sir." She took a step backward and said, "Deandra! I need you!"

The woman working with Geordi nodded at him and stood, turning. Beside him, Picard sensed Data stiffen as if in shock. The Lieutenant Commander moving toward them bore Data's pale skin and golden eyes! She moved to stand beside the Commander. "Yes?" she said simply.

"We are on the

Enterprise. You were right. That is LaForge."

The pale woman nodded. "And that would stand to reason..." She named them left to right. "Crusher, Troi, Rozhenko, Picard, and...." her voice trailed off.

"Say it, Pin," the Commander whispered.

The pale woman nodded again, her voice barely above a whisper. "And Soong and Riker."

From the corner of his eye, Picard saw Data and Riker exchange glances. "Excuse me, Lieutenant Commander," Data pointed out, "but my name is Data. Dr. Soong was my father."

"And my name is Worf, not 'Rozhenko'! That was my father!" Worf growled.

Picard raised a hand. "You appear to have us at a disadvantage, Commander. May we enquire as to the name of your ship, so you can be returned?"

The Commander laughed rather nervously. "Captain, this is our ship."

"What?" Picard, Crusher, and Riker all gasped at once.

The triple-voiced chorus produced a bubble of genuine laughter from the Commander. The pale woman smiled slightly. "This is our ship," the Commander repeated. "Please...let us introduce ourselves. I am Commander Billie T. Ryker. This," and she gestured at the pale woman, "is Lieutenant Commander Deandra D. Soong."

Deandra bowed slightly.

Data's eyes widened. "Deandra Soong? That was Father's mother's name."

Deandra smiled at him. "That is also my name."

"And the 'D'?" Data asked rather impolitely.

Deandra just smiled. "It stands for the name the Starfleet officers gave me when they found me."

"Which is?" Picard asked, though he had a sinking feeling he knew what she would say.

He was right. "Data."

~~~~~~~~~~

Minutes later, Picard gazed over the briefing room table at his officers. He had convened an emergency meeting, minus the two women they were discussing. "We find ourselves with an impossible situation on our hands," he began without any preamble. "The question now is, what do we do about it?"

"Captain," Worf rumbled, "they are obviously imposters!"

"I don't agree," Troi said. "They are as baffled by this as we are. They truly believe what they are saying to be the truth."

"What they are saying, Counselor," Riker snapped, "is that they are us! And I for one refuse to believe that... that woman is me!"

"Why not, Will?" Beverly grinned wickedly. "I think you make a rather charming woman." Riker fixed her with a pained look. Troi couldn't help smiling.

"Enough!" Picard tried to sound stern, but he found himself chuckling. "Number One, I realise how uncomfortable you must feel right now --"

"With all due respect, sir, I don't think you can!" By now Riker was fairly bristling. "Doctor Crusher says she thinks Billie is me! Right down to the DNA!"

"Except she is a few years younger... and my results are preliminary," Beverly interrupted.

Riker just plowed on. "And quite frankly, sir, the thought of someone else just like me, only not like me at all, is something I am not prepared to go through again! I'm just getting used to having a twin brother! I don't need a sister on top of everything!"

"A most curious attitude, Commander," Data said. "I welcome the thought of a sister."

"But now," Picard said, ignoring Riker slumping in his seat, "we must deal with some disturbing questions. Where did they come from? How did they get here? Can we return them?"

"I hope so," Riker said tiredly. "Sir, I don't understand this at all. I feel like we're the butt of some.. .some cosmic joke!"

Picard blinked. "Cosmic joke?" He leaned back in his chair. "Cosmic joke," he repeated slowly, his face reddening.

"Q!" Worf spat.

Data nodded. "This is representative of his work. It is not outside the bounds of reason to see how we would react to coming face to face with doppelgangers, albeit substantially altered ones."

Picard shook his head and held up a hand. "Much as I agree with you all, and against my better judgment, I think it would be best if we assume Q is not the one behind this." He sighed. "At least until we have more proof. But the big question remains:

"What are we going to do about our guests?"

~~~~~~~~~~

In their guest quarters, Deandra sank wearily into a couch. "Mm, this feels good!" she sighed.

Billie turned from the computer screen and broke into a wide grin. "And here I thought androids never got tired."

"We do not." She shifted position and practically purred. "But this one enjoys taking a break every now and again... especially when my best friend decides to do my work for me!"

Billie shrugged and stood up. "All yours, my friend. Nothing of any use, anyway."

"I think I shall be the judge of that." Reluctantly, Deandra moved to the console. "Mm. They are us, are they not?"

Billie frowned, stretching her tired back till it popped. "That's what those medical records say. I still have my doubts, though. She stood in thought for a moment, sliding a manicured finger over her chin. "I wonder if he has a cleft underneath that beard?" A pillow smacked into her shoulder blades, and she whirled. "Hey!"

Deandra was facing her, grinning from ear to ear. "If you do not quit, I shall have to call you Narcissus!"

"Narcis-- Huh?"

"Greek mythology. Narcissus spurned a nymph named Echo and she wasted away to nothing but a voice. As punishment, the gods made him fall in love with himself."

Billie's eyes widened. She picked up the pillow and returned it to Deandra rather forcefully. "He is not me! I refuse to believe that...that is me!"

Deandra's smile faded. She rose to her feet. "Hey. Billie, you are really upset!"

"Well, how did you expect me to react? Pin... I've just gotten used to having a twin sister! Now you expect me to adjust --- again -- to someone who is me in nearly every way, but not me at all! I don't need this right now!" She sank face down onto the bed in her alcove. "I just don't need this," she whispered.

Though no tears came, Deandra knew Billie Ryker was on the verge of crying. She also knew, Billie being Billie, those tears would never come. Still, Deandra sat on the edge of Billie's bed and waited for a few seconds, a supportive hand on her friend's shoulder.

Then she said, "Get up and get cleaned up. We are going to Ten Forward."

Billie blinked up at her. "We are?"

"Uh-huh. I do not think either of us needs to be alone right now -- even together."

Billie smiled her thanks and headed for the bathroom.

Deandra watched her go. Then she rose from the bed and moved back to the computer console. Sitting at it, she turned it off and tapped the communicator on the pendant she wore. "Counselor Troi, please," she said softly.

"Troi here," the clipped contralto replied.

Deandra shook her head. It was strange, hearing a female voice respond to the summons! "Counselor, this is Deandra Soong. Would you please meet Billie and me in Ten-Forward in thirty minutes?"

"I'll be there. I look forward to talking with the pair of you."

Deandra leaned back in the chair and closed her eyes. "Can you put me in touch with the Captain? There may be a problem with Billie and Commander Riker..."

~~~~~~~~~~

Fifteen minutes later, the pair in civilian clothes paused outside the doors to Ten-Forward. "Oh, man," Billie whispered, "I forgot!"

Deandra turned. "Forgot what?"

Billie folded her arms just over her stomach and shifted her weight. "It's Friday night."

"Fri...?" The golden eyes widened. "Oh, no."

"Uh-huh." Billie nodded toward the doors. "He's in there, Pin. The jazz trio. This was a bad idea." She dropped her arms and turned, heading back the way they came.

Suddenly her arm was gripped by incredible strength. "Oh, no, you do !" Deandra said, holding her. "Billie, it is not like you to run away! What is wrong?"

Billie made an exasperated sound. "Pin, I'm afraid," she admitted quietly. "He's me!" Her eyes dropped. "Dad always wanted a boy. Instead he got me... and now he has me and Terri." She suddenly chuckled, meeting Deandra's eyes. "Just guess I'm scared to find out if Dad was right and I would have been better as a boy."

Deandra smiled. "I have often wondered if life would have been different had Father created me as a male." The smile became a grin. "Now we both have the chance to find out."

Billie stood a bit straighter. "You know, Pin? You're right! Let's do it!" Squaring her shoulders, head held high, she strode into Ten-Forward.

Deandra chuckled and followed her.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Riker glanced up from his playing as the doors slid open. He made a slight mental note two women came in, then returned to the last notes of the song, finishing with a flourish.

As the crowd applauded, Riker bowed. "Thank you, thank you. Now, ladies and gentlemen -- any requests for our final number?"

"I have one," a contralto voice said. Riker turned to see a tall woman in a blue silk jumpsuit striding toward the stage. He took in the black curls spilling past the shoulders and the blue eyes that never wavered form his, and a surge of attraction rose in him.

His eyes slid down her features and the attraction turned to a chill of shock as he realised just who he was talking to. "You do?" he asked, his voice ice.

Billie nodded. "'Moonlight over Mars'," she said. "It's my favourite song."

Riker nodded at her and counted off. As he began to play, he saw her companion, dressed in jade silk with her brown hair loose, come and lead Billie to a table.

"You are cruel!" Deandra chuckled as they slid into a table. "You know you could never get the last two notes right on that!"

Billie just smiled.

The waiter was just leaving to fetch Billie's Alaskan trout and Deandra's vegetable stir-fry when Troi and Data came walking up. "May we join you?" Troi asked.

"Sure, come on," Billie said, sliding over to make room.

"Commander," Data began. "We wish to discuss --"

"Shh!" Billie held up a hand, listening. "Three... two..." Suddenly two clinker notes sounded from the bandstand, followed by a chuckle from the crowd. "He can't get them, either."

"Sorry about that, folks," Riker laughed. "That's it for the night. Next week, same time." Ten seconds later he was sliding in beside Data. "You seem to delight in embarrassing me."

Billie just smiled sweetly at him. "Just wanted to see if you could do something I can't."

"When it comes to talent, apparently the answer is no," Troi mused. "We wanted to talk to the two of you together."

"About what?" Riker asked.

"You seem to be extremely hostile toward one another," Data said. "We wished to ascertain the cause."

Billie and Riker's eyes met, each one sitting up straighter in their chairs.

Deandra held up a hand. "We only want you to, if not be friends, at least work together in peace till we find a way home."

"I can't believe you were in on this!" Billie hissed.

Deandra laid a hand on her shoulder. "I asked them to come. This animosity is silly. You realise you are hating yourself?"

Billie pushed away from the table. "I've had a lot of practice at that, Pin. Excuse me." She strode out of Ten-Forward, fists clenched.

The silence at the table stretched into seconds. The waiter arrived with the girls' orders. Deandra accepted the stir-fry and gave the trout to Riker.

Riker picked at the fish, then gestured toward the door with his fork. "Will she be all right?"

"I am certain she will," Deandra said. "She has battled feelings of inadequacy for most of her life."

Troi and Riker's eyes met. "How so?" Troi asked.

Deandra swallowed her mouthful. "Her mother died when she was a baby. Admiral Ryker wanted a boy, and Billie Theresa was a bit of a shock. So he raised her like a boy, and never made any secret of his displeasure. She has spent her entire life trying to live up to her father's unrealistic expectations."

Riker flinched. "That sounds too familiar," he said. "My dad always pushed me to do more, be better. I've only recently made my peace with him."

Deandra frowned. "Billie may never have that chance. Admiral Ryker refuses to see her and Terri."

"Ah," Data said, "she also was duplicated?"

Deandra nodded.

"Miss Soong?" Data began.

"Deandra. May I ask you two questions?"

Deandra grinned at him. "Besides the one you just asked?"

Data opened his mouth, but nothing came out. Then he closed it and said, "People seem to enjoy doing that to me."

"You make it too easy. Ask your questions."

"How is it that you smile? And I have noticed that your Commander Ryker addresses you by a different name."

Deandra nodded. "I smile because Father gave me an emotions chip three years ago. My sister Lauren tried to get it, but I stopped her."

"You.... stopped her?" Riker asked.

Deandra looked at him, eyes golden flint. "I had to shut her down, Bill."

"I'm sorry," Riker asked.

"As for my name?" Deandra went on. "Billie calls me 'Pin'. She gave the nickname to me the first time we met, and it stuck."

Riker smiled. "Because you're sharp as a pin?"

Deandra laughed. "That is cute, Bill. No, actually, it is a shortened version of 'Pinocchio'. I told her I wished to be human, and she smiled and said, 'Nice to meet you, Pinocchio'. I have been 'Pin' to her ever since. Nobody else calls me that." The grin turned a bit dangerous. "Nobody else dares."

Riker smiled at Data, remembering. Data blinked, nodding.

"Speaking of names," Troi said softly "Commander Riker goes by 'Will', not 'Bill'."

Deandra nodded. "I shall remember that, Counselor. Thank you."

Data asked, "Do you still wish to be human?"

Deandra shook her head. "I had no emotions then. I now have experienced the full range of what humanity has to offer. No, I no longer wish that. I am content to be what I am." She sighed and looked toward the door. "I wish Billie would feel the same."

Riker suddenly excused himself and left Ten-Forward.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the turbolift, Riker asked himself, If I needed to blow off some steam, where would I go?

"Deck Seven," he ordered.

Riker paused briefly outside the holodeck, noting the privacy lock had been cycled. "Computer," he said, "override privacy lock. Authorization Riker-Omega-One."

The computer beeped, and the door opened.

Riker found Billie in a ring, fighting a Holodeck opponent in an ambo-jitsu match. He watched her for a minute, then said, "Computer. Delete opponent."

Billie was just lunging for a strike when her opponent was no longer there. She tripped, going to her knees. She cursed, flinging off her helmet and throwing it toward Riker. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"They're right," he said. "We're being silly."

Billie vaulted out of the ring. "I'll tell you what being silly is, Mister! Silly is coming back from a vacation and getting sucked into a cosmic whirlpool! Silly is finding yourself in a place where everything is the same but not the same at all! Silly is having to deal with a six-foot-one version of yourself who plays trombone just as badly as you do, who hates you just as deeply as you do, and who hides his best feature behind a butt-ugly beard!"

"You finished?"

Billie blew the air out of her cheeks. She nodded.

"Feel better?"

She smiled. "Not one bit." She nodded toward the ring. "Care to join me?"

Riker smiled. "I thought you'd never ask."

Just then his combadge beeped. "Commander Riker, report to the bridge."

"On my way," Riker responded. "Some other time?"

"Bet on it. Computer, end program and save!"

The holodeck faded to grid as the pair exited.

"Bridge," Billie ordered as the turbolift doors closed.

"Excuse me?" Riker blinked at her.

She grinned. "He said for Commander Riker to report to the bridge. He didn't say which one."

Riker shifted his weight and smiled. "You are one devious lady."

"Coming from you, that's high praise."

Riker chuckled and shook his head.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The pair exited onto the Bridge. Picard rose from his chair. "I thought by being vague I'd get the two of you here together."

Billie rolled her eyes. "Captain, if this is another attempt to get us to make our peace --"

"We've called a tenuous truce," Riker finished.

"Glad to hear it," Picard said. "Deandra asked me to come to the meeting in Ten-Forward, but I couldn't."

"Deandra talks too much," Billie said, smiling.

Picard chuckled, then said, "I called you here because there's something I want you to look at. Viewscreen, Ensign."

"Aye, sir," Sheila Gates said, activating the screen.

The screen showed a starfield zipping by. "Look familiar?" Picard asked.

Billie nodded, but it was Riker who spoke. "That's the Trayconda system. That's the way back from Risa."

Billie added, "Did you get this from the Pike?"

"Yes," Picard said. "Keep watching."

Suddenly a gaping hole in space appeared. The view rocked as it suddenly seemed to swallow the viewer in a maelstrom of energy. But this wormhole was different than most. It contained small meteors, which began to buffet the ship. Suddenly there was a flash of brilliant yellow at the lower right corner of the screen.

"That's when we got hit," Billie said. "The meteorite took out our nacelle."

The view began to spin wildly, then the energy storm vanished. The stars spun crazily for awhile, then settled. But the stars began to drift aimlessly by.

"You were crippled," Picard said. Billie nodded.

A silvery object, tiny with distance, appeared in the upper left corner of the screen.

"That's you," Billie said. "Pin started working on the communications so we could contact you. We couldn't tell if you were Klingon, Romulan, Vulcan, or whatever. We didn't even know where we were. After a few minutes, Pin got the receivers working and we could hear your transponder signal --- barely. Just enough to identify you as Federation. Then she got minimal power to the comm, and I transmitted. The rest you know."

Picard frowned. "'Pin'?"

Riker smiled. "Deandra. Long story. I'll explain later."

"Well," Picard sighed, "your story checks out. Now, what do we do with the two of you?"

Billie thought for a second, then pulled the hem of the tunic of her jumpsuit down as she squared her shoulders. "Captain, we want to go home. I recommend Deandra work with your scientific team to find a way to find that wormhole and send us back through."

"Make it so..." Picard paused, then smiled. "Number One."

Riker grinned. Billie grinned and looked at the floor for a second, then back up at Picard. Her cheeks were tinged with a hint of pink as she said, laughing, "Aye, sir."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Data walked down the hallway toward his cabin, positronic brain whirling as always. I must figure out a way to reopen the wormhole, he thought. Then there is the problem of stabilizing it and deflecting the meteors so they do not become crippled again.

Before that, we must repair the Pike so that it can make the journey once more. I would like to get to know Commander Soong a bit better first. I have wondered if life would have been different had Father created me female. In her, I have a chance to discover the answer.

Suddenly Data was brought up short by a small dark object on his door. He removed it and saw that it was a small datapadd. On it was written a message for his eyes only.

Data nodded and walked into his cabin. He addressed the form on the bed. "You are forgiven. Thank you for respecting my privacy and leaving the note on my door."

Deandra nodded, back to him. "I merely extended the courtesy to you I would wish extended to me. I had to come here, do you understand?"

"No. There is a tremor in your voice. Are you functioning properly?"

Deandra sat up and turned to face him. Tears were spilling down her cheeks. "I am homesick, Data. I wish to go to my ship, to my room, to my --" Words failed her. She held her arms up to Data.

Spot was resting contentedly in them.

"Cat," Data finished. "Her name is Spot."

"Mine is a male," Deandra said. "His name is Gepetto."

Data blinked. "The father from the Pinocchio story. That is an interesting choice of name."

Deandra chuckled. "Billie named him. After he got her cat Tigress pregnant."

Data tilted his head. "Hm. I thought Spot was a male until she became pregnant. Our Commander Riker does not get along with cats."

"Well, neither does Billie. Tigress lasted only a few weeks before she gave her to Barclay."

"Ah." Data moved to his desk and sat down. "I am attempting to work on your problem."

Deandra kissed Spot and set the sleeping cat down on the pillow. She slid off the bed and came to the desk. "Any luck?"

"Not as of yet."

"'Not yet'."

"Pardon?"

"Do not say more words than necessary. Do not use large words when smaller ones will do. That is what I have learned by my friendship with Billie."

"I have noticed your speech pattern sounds more human than mine. Is that the reason why?"

She smiled. "Yes. Billie is quite an influence."

Data nodded and turned back to work. "First, we need to repair the Pike. Then we need to find the wormhole --"

"And somehow stabilize it," Deandra finished. "Then we need to find a way to avoid the meteorites."

Data nodded. "I believe I have a possible way to stabilize the wormhole."

Deandra blinked at him. "Tell me."

~~~~~~~

Picard walked into Shuttle Bay Two, all smiles. Geordi, Data and Deandra were working on the stubbornly broken nacelle. Billie and Riker were watching and occasionally helping, occasionally getting in the way.

"It's done," Picard said. "I just closed communications with Deep Space Nine. Chief O'Brien will have the buffers ready for us when we get there."

Deandra broke into a grin. "Yes!" she cheered. "That solves one of our problems!"

Billie frowned. "You lost me a parsec ago, Pin."

Deandra was on the verge of laughter and tears at the same time. "There is a stable wormhole in the Bajoran system that leads to the Gamma Quadrant."

"Common knowledge, Pin. So?"

"So, it has Federation-made buffers in it to keep its energy from disrupting shuttle systems --"

"-- as well as protecting the aliens that live there from our engine residue," Geordi put in.

Billie's blue eyes took on a look of alarm. "Wormholes are caused by aliens?"

Deandra burst out laughing. "No, Billie. The Bajoran wormhole is the residence of extra-dimensional aliens. Most others are not. The buffers, however, should stabilize the wormhole we went through long enough for us to go through a second time."

"That's the plan, at any rate," Picard said. "I've ordered a jump to warp eight. We should be there in four days."

Billie frowned. "I just hope that thing's still open when we get back."

Data looked up. "We are attempting to discern...." He stopped himself, tilted his head, nodded, and began again. "We are trying to figure out a way to reopen it if it is closed."

Geordi smiled at him. "Data!"

Data looked at him, the half-smile on his face. "Commander Soong is quite an influence."

Deandra began to laugh so hard she had to lean against the shuttle to catch her breath.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Riker walked into the shuttle bay to find Billie arguing with a technician. "Lieutenant, I know what Mister LaForge said! That is my shuttle, and I need my effects from inside!"

"Sorry, Ma'am. I have my orders."

Billie looked down for a second, then chuckled. She looked up at the lieutenant from under her eyelids, then raised her head and met his eyes, smiling.

Uh-oh, Riker thought. She's NOT!

"Lieutenant," Billie said, voice like silk. "Lieutenant... ah...Michaelson, is it?"

"Y-Yes, Ma'am. Jim Michaelson."

Oh, no, Riker thought. He's given her ammo.

Billie took a step toward him. "Jim. You do realise a woman needs.... certain amenities."

"Yes, Ma'am." Michaelson was beginning to squirm a little.

Billie lay a finger on his shoulder and slid it back and forth. "And you do realise a woman needs to look her best... for a man."

"Yes, Ma'am."

The finger slid down his collar and traced the outline of his combadge. "Well, Jimmy... I can't look my best right now because my effects are still in that shuttle." She took another step forward. Her voice dropped half an octave. "So do you think you can be a good boy and let me in for half a minute so I can get my things?"

Michaelson was sweating. Riker could almost see the wheels turning in his head. Finally, Michaelson choked out, "I... have my orders, Ma'am."

She leaned forward till her lips brushed his ear. In a thick whisper she purred, "I know, Jimmy. But I outrank you. And I outrank Lieutenant LaForge." The hand on his shoulder that supported her suddenly locked onto his shoulder with a grip of steel. "Let me in," she said, her voice velvet ice.

"Yes, Ma'am," Michaelson whispered. He stepped aside and let her go in.

She smiled sweetly after him. "Thank you, Jimmy."

Riker walked over to him. "You okay?"

Michaelson was blinking rapidly. "Yes, Sir. I --- What just happened?"

Billie came out with a small black case. Riker smiled at her and said, "You just fell under a spell, Lieutenant." He took Billie's arm and led her away.

Billie was grinning. "Don't tell me you can't do that to beautiful women." At his obvious discomfiture she chuckled. "Well, I can do it to handsome men."

"What's in that case, anyway?"

Billie unzipped it. There were a few personal effects and several hypos of medication.

"What is that?" Riker blinked.

"Insulin. You must have had to take it before you had your pancreas regenerated."

Riker blinked at her. "No. I never had that done."

She frowned. "That's odd. They discovered this problem when I collapsed on Risa five days ago. That's why our vacation was so short. We were on our way home so Doctor Crusher could regenerate my pancreas."

"You've been here almost a day. How'd you manage to..."

"Replicators. But I need the real thing pretty soon." She smiled up at him. "Hey, you think maybe your Crusher could do the surgery?"

Riker smiled. He proffered an arm and she took it. "Let's go ask her."

~~~~~~~~~~

Beverly nodded as she ran the Feinberger over Billie. "Yes, I can do it." She flipped a switch on the tricorder and turned, running it over Riker. "Will, you have the same problem she does, though not to the degree."

He blinked. "I'm diabetic, too?"

She smiled. "Not yet. And you won't be if I can help it. Let me get her straightened up, and I'll get yours taken care of next." She turned to Billie. "Shall we go ahead?"

Billie smiled. "No time like the present. Let's get it over with."

Billie lay back on the bio-bed. Beverly placed a hypo against her arm. There was a hiss, and Billie's lashes began to flutter.

Then the blue eyes slowly closed.

There was a soft thump behind Beverly. She turned and her mouth dropped open.

Riker had collapsed. Beverly knelt beside him and scanned him. She blinked at the results and scanned him again.

"Hm," she said out loud. "That's odd. He's showing the effects of the anesthetic I gave Billie, but there's no trace of it in..." Her head snapped up. "He's showing the effects of the anesthetic...." She turned to the other bed. "...that I gave Billie!"

She said the sentence again, letting it sink in. "They really are the same person!"

Beverly smiled at the unconscious pair. "No sense in letting this opportunity go to waste. Long as he's out, I'll just regenerate his pancreas too."

She stood and leaned out the doorway. "Alyssa, could you come here? And bring an orderly -- I've got a patient to move up onto a bio-bed!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Seven hours later, Billie and Riker were discharged from Sickbay. Beverly was angry at both of them, because though both were in a bit of pain, both had refused any painkillers.

"Sometimes, I think you think you can survive on sheer nerve!" she had exploded.

Billie had smiled sweetly at her. "Part of us did, remember?"

Biker had smiled. "Tom and.... Terri, is it?"

Billie nodded. "Eight years." She shook her head and touched her tender side. "So you see, Doc, we'll be fine."

Their smiles lingered long after they had left a spluttering Beverly.

Now, the chirp of a combadge woke Billie. She sat up and wiped sleep from her eyes. "Ryker," she said, yawning.

"You feel up to coming up to the Bridge?" Riker asked.

"Sure," she said, stretching. Big mistake. Wincing, she amended, "After a hypospray."

"Agreed," he grunted. "Meet you there."

Continue To Part Two