River of Dreams

by Pat Greiner

Jean-Luc Picard focused on keeping his expression neutral, showing no trace of the annoyance he felt.  Surely the Emikun and his extended family could have posed for their portrait earlier in the day.  Protocol demanded that he greet them formally in the Emikun’s reception chamber before they transported aboard the Enterprise, but he had planned for a five-minute excursion, not one that was verging on an hour. 

The Emikun was settled on his ornately carved seat.  His five wives were arrayed behind him; it was impossible to tell one from another in their formal hooded gowns that left little exposed except their hands and the lower portion of their faces.  Fourteen children were seated on the floor around them.  The photographer peered through his camera, adjusted the lighting, peered again, instructed two of the children to move closer to the others, peered again.   At last the process was complete. 

“Your Grace,” the captain said with a diplomatic smile, “May I suggest we begin transporting…”

“My sharung!” the wife in the middle suddenly exclaimed as she bolted out the chamber door. 

Picard breathed deeply, then smiled again. 

“She never goes anywhere without it,” one of the younger children volunteered.  “It’s her lucky charm.”

The Emikun made a low hissing noise as he glared at the child, who would remember henceforth to keep silent in state settings.   “You are correct, Captain,” he said.  “We should reach our quarters before the Ensari arrive.   Why don’t you begin with our servants and baggage?   Durala should return soon.”

Picard tapped his comm badge.  “Mr. O’Brien, is the escort for the Kovadi party standing by?”

“Ready and waiting, Captain,” came the reply.

“Begin transport of the auxiliary staff.”  

As members of the Emikun’s party arrived on the transporter pad, they were welcomed by security staff and escorted to their private compound on deck fourteen.   O’Brien turned his attention to an incoming communication from Will Riker, who was on the opposite side of planet Marisel IV from Picard.  “Are we clear to begin transporting the Ensari aboard?”

“Sorry, Commander, but the Kovadi are still in the process of arriving.  I’ll let you know as soon as they’ve cleared the area and reached their quarters. “ 

“Hopefully soon.  Clock watching is a fine art on this side of the planet.  Riker out.”

Picard was relieved to see the Emikun’s third wife rush back into the chamber.  She immediately dropped to one knee, head bowed, and addressed her husband.   “I beg forgiveness for my delay.  It was unavoidable.”  The Emikun grunted and she rose, looking around to see the photographer packing up his equipment.  “But what about the portrait?”

“Enough!” her husband growled.  “What we have done is sufficient.”

Durala looked at the other wives, who had pushed their formal hoods back from their faces and were herding the children into some sort of order.  “But will I not … “

“Enough!”  Her husband’s tone turned threatening, and she let the matter drop, joining the other wives.   

In mercifully short order, the Emikun, his wives and children were transported aboard the Enterprise and escorted to deck fourteen.    A security guard was posted at each turbolift access point on that deck, and only then did O’Brien relay the go-ahead to Riker and begin transporting the Ensari party on board.    In similar fashion, they were taken to deck seventeen, where guards were also stationed at the turbolifts. 


The senior officers gathered around the conference table displayed a variety of skeptical expressions.   “These people go beyond disliking each other.  They can’t even allow themselves to speak with someone who’s spoken to the other side,” Dr. Crusher observed.  “Is it really likely that signatures on a treaty will change that?” 

“It seems odd to us,” Deanna Troi replied, “but I sense from the Ensari that they believe exactly that.   The enmity between the two races of Marisel IV is so old that it has become a given.   They don’t feel active hatred – it’s more like they’re locked into behavior patterns which neither side can break out of.”

“Indeed,” Picard affirmed.  “That is why they have agreed to the treaty signing at the Centaurean Treaty Center.    To their way of thinking, a peace engineered by an outside party means that neither side loses face.   And until that treaty is signed, it is imperative to observe their cultural taboos against any contact whatsoever, even secondhand.   At least that eliminates the need for a formal reception or celebration aboard the Enterprise.”  He did not look the least bit disappointed by that fact.  “Anyone who deals with the Ensari will not deal with the Kovadi, and vice versa.  You all have your assignments, and the security teams know who is to be allowed on each deck, so let’s just try to maintain as close to normal protocol as we can for the duration of this trip.  Dismissed.”


Over drinks in 10-Forward later that evening, Will and Deanna shared their impressions of the Ensari with Beverly, who had met only the Kovadi.   “They’re meticulously precise,” Deanna began.

“She means they’re nit-picking jerks,” Will interrupted.  “Everything runs by the clock, according to agendas that are worked, reworked, distributed in triplicate and memorized by everyone involved.   Efficiency is everything to them.”

“Sounds just the opposite of the Kovadi,” Beverly observed.  “They seem to have a ceremony for everything, and they like nothing better than inventing new ones.   After dinner, the captain and I had to formally take our leave of every single person in their party … all thirty-five of them.  It took nearly an hour, and I had the feeling they thought we were being a bit abrupt at that.  And don’t get me started on how the Emikun treats his wives.”

Deanna drew in a breath and raised her eyebrows, but before she could speak, Beverly continued on.  “I know, cultural diversity, cultural sensitivity.  I won’t let my opinions show.  But I don’t have to like it.”


Dr. Crusher had just begun her shift the next morning when she received a message from the Kovadi.  Their leader had fallen ill during the night.  She would have preferred to have all the diagnostic resources of sickbay at her disposal, but the protocol required her to take her medkit to their quarters.  “Heaven forbid they breathe in air that has touched Ensari lungs,” she said to Nurse Ogawa with a shake of her head.  “Much less lie on a biobed that may have been used by one of them.   But if someone in either party gets seriously ill, we’re going to have a tricky situation on our hands.”

The Emikun was surrounded by so many people trying to attend to his needs that it would have been impossible for him to rest.  Beverly politely shooed away the flutter of wives, children and servants, and began her examination.   After several minutes, she shook her head.  “I can rule out infectious disease.   There are no unusual microorganisms in your system.  The abnormality is at the subcellular level.  Something is causing your genetic cohesion to break down – it’s as though your cells are losing their specializations and reverting to undifferentiated form.  But what could possibly cause that?”

She questioned the Emikun about any past difficulty with transporting, or any possible exposure to unusual chemicals or other substances, but could not identify any likely culprits.  “I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do to stop the progress of this condition until we can identify the cause.  I can give you something to relieve discomfort, but the underlying problem will get worse until … “

 “Until it kills me?” he finished for her.

“Until we can determine what’s causing it,” she replied.

“And if not … how long?”

“At the present rate of deterioration, about a week.”

“Well, long enough to sign the treaty at any rate.”

Beverly didn’t like to give patients worst-case scenarios, but he needed to know.  “You would most likely be in a comatose state for the last part of that time.   I would estimate that you’ll have three to four days before things get that far.  But I don’t intend to let that happen.  I’ll start researching possible causes immediately.  In the meantime, try to rest.”  She glanced toward the doorway where two wives and three servants were trying to listen unobtrusively.  “As much as you can.”


Later that afternoon, Picard stopped by sickbay to check on the progress of her research.  “Every single Kovadi on board is acting as though I am personally at fault for the Emikun’s illness.   And I can’t help feeling they are right.  What happens on my ship is my responsibility.”

“It may not have started on the ship.   We’re dealing with some sort of retrograde irradiative effect.  Those things take about twelve hours to begin showing damage.   Since his symptoms didn’t come on until the middle of the night, he must have been exposed earlier yesterday – probably close to the time they beamed aboard.  But until I can pin down exactly which retro-irradiant caused this, I can’t determine the antidote.   No one else has reported these symptoms, so that seems to rule out its being a transporter malfunction, or something placed in their quarters.  If it was something back on Marisel IV, we may have to return there in order to identify it.”

“If we were to do so, how long would it take you to find what you need?”

“There’s no telling.  I can’t guarantee that going back there would give us the answer.”

“So – a needle in a haystack.”

“Worse.  I’m not even sure if a needle is what I’m looking for in this haystack.”

“Keep searching.  And keep me apprised of anything you find.”

“Of course, Captain.”


Beverly had planned to check on the Emikun again after dinner, but she received a call to their quarters while she was still finishing up her records.    The Kovadi children had been roughhousing and one of them had broken an arm.   “At least that’s simple to treat,” she said as Nurse Ogawa handed her the bone growth stimulator along with the standard medkit.   “They brought everyone else in the royal household … couldn’t they have brought their family doctor, too?” 

True to her word, the simple break was easily treated, and the little boy was soon resting comfortably, his arm placed in a sling more because he wanted it than from medical necessity.  When Beverly turned her attention to the Emikun, she found that he already had a visitor in his quarters – Jean-Luc Picard.    “This makes it easy to update both of you.  Cellular degeneration of this type is caused by radiation from a class of substances called retro-nucleics.  There are fifteen of them, and each requires a different antidote.    As I’ve told you, the source may have been back on Marisel IV …”

The Emikun interrupted her with a dismissive snort.  “I’m sure the captain would very much like me to believe that is the case.”

“I assure you, our main concern is to return you to health and to complete the treaty process.  Doctor, do you have a plan?”

“We will continue to try to identify the source, but in the meantime, I will take a sample of your blood – a rather large one, I’m afraid – and divide it into fifteen portions.   Each of those will be treated with a different antidote, and the one that shows good effects will tell us which treatment you need.   But it will take about thirty-six hours for those results to be evident.”

“Which will be too late?”

“No, but it means you’ll feel weak for another day or so before you begin to feel better.  Depending on how quickly you respond to the treatment, we may have to delay the treaty signing for a few days.”

“The Ensari are unlikely to tolerate such a delay.  They will use that as an excuse to abandon the treaty.”

“If you would come to our sickbay, I could place you in a stasis field that would prevent the damage from progressing any further.  With less damage, we could expect you to regain your health more quickly once treatment is begun.”

“I have already passed through portions of your ship that the Ensari have shared, and we see what has been the result.  I refuse to risk further contamination.”

“Even if such contamination could happen, your party came through the transporter first, and were here in your quarters before the Ensari ever came aboard.”

“Bah.  How can we be sure?”   He retreated into grumpy silence, but thrust an arm toward her.  “Draw your blood and proceed with your experiments.”  

Finishing quickly, Beverly left the two men to the discussion of fine details in the treaty ceremony.  On her way out of Kovadi quarters, Beverly saw Durala, wife number three and the mother of the injured child, sitting by the sofa where the boy was resting.  She was singing something softly to him, musical, yet tuneless.  There didn’t seem to be words, just a few simple syllables repeated over and over.  Beverly thought it was probably the Kovadi equivalent of singing “dah dee dum” when you didn’t know the lyrics. 

“There’s no need to worry.  Two treatments with the bone stimulator and he’ll be good as new.”

The woman looked up at her and smiled.  “I am grateful for your help, Doctor.  I have been performing our dream ceremony to assist in Zemot’s healing.  It helps one to draw on the lessons of past experience to face a challenge.  Even though he is only ten, there have been times in the past which required him to be brave.  The ceremony helps him to relive those times in his dreams and re-experience those lessons.”

“Our ship’s counselor uses a similar technique called directed dreaming.   She might enjoy learning about your ceremony. “

“I would be happy to talk with her.”

“Oh, damn!  I’m sorry, I just remembered that Deanna is assigned to Team Ensari.   She’s not allowed to speak with you.  But if you don’t mind my watching for a few minutes, I’d like to tell her about it.”

“Of course.”   The woman turned back to her son and took up the chant again.

Beverly found herself being absorbed in the sound as the mother hummed and sang softly.  The boy had visibly relaxed as she had begun, and seemed to be sleeping now.  She realized with a start that she had been standing there for …minutes? more? … lulled into an almost hypnotic state by the soft voice.  Almost imperceptibly, her breathing began to fall into the gentle rhythm of the chant.   Then, as softly as it had begun, it ended. 

Beverly returned to sickbay and began the process of setting up fifteen test vessels, each with a sample of the Emikun’s blood and one of the potential antidotes.   As she worked, she heard faint echoes of the chant in her head.  She wouldn’t be surprised if it produced some positive psychological effects.  Its simple patterns were hard to resist.


That night she woke slowly from her dreams, a feeling of warmth and comfort wrapped around her like one of her grandmother’s soft woolen blankets.  It always felt so good when Jack came home.  Then she was fully awake and Jack, who had been so close just moments before, was dead.  The last fourteen years felt like a jagged gash in time, and he was stranded on the receding edge.  Beverly’s heart ached for him as it hadn’t in years, and she buried her mouth against her pillow.


Picard had received three messages from the Kovadi’s quarters before he had finished breakfast.  They were insisting that a security team search their quarters for any possible sources of radiation.   Resigned to the demands of diplomacy, he summoned Lieutenant Worf to meet him at sickbay and alerted Beverly to be ready to brief them on precisely what to scan for.

“There you have it,” Beverly said, handing Worf a Padd listing fifteen obscure chemical names.  “It’s going to mean fifteen separate sweeps … unless you get lucky and find something on the first one.  But I’m still not hopeful that you’ll find anything.   It would have to have acted immediately, yet not have affected others in the quarters.  That’s a tall order.”

“Thank you, doctor.  Mr. Worf, assemble a team – and be sure none of them have been on duty in the Ensari section.  We don’t want to open that can of worms.  I will meet you on deck fourteen; I’ll be smoothing over any ruffled feelings.”

“Aye, sir.”

A yawn caught Picard unawares and he clamped his jaw, trying to force it down.

“Tired already?”  She raised a skeptical eyebrow.  “When was your last physical?”

“Nothing more than an interrupted night’s sleep, doctor.”

“More summons from our guests?  I’ll bet Will and Deanna aren’t having this much fun.”

“I can’t blame our guests, just my own dreams.  I don’t recall much, but I do remember there were Nausicans involved.”

“That’s unsettling enough.  I should check those blood tests, although I don’t really expect significant results until this evening at the earliest.”


Three hours later, Worf’s team was just finishing their twelfth sweep of the Kovadi area when the unexpected happened — a positive tricorder reading for krinselinib, the twelfth entry on the doctor’s list.   The device led them to a small room used to store the considerable luggage of the Emikun’s party, then to an ornate trunk that contained the ceremonial robe which the Emikun had worn for his arrival on the Enterprise.  Stuck inside the voluminous folds of the hood they found an inch-long piece of thin wire that sent the tricorder readings spiking into the red zone. 

“Containment vessel!” Worf barked, but a junior officer was already removing one from the equipment pack.  With the wire safely bottled, Worf contacted Picard and Crusher about his findings. 

“Well done, Mr. Worf.  I shall be there shortly to give the news to the Emikun.  Dr. Crusher, how soon can you begin treatments?”

“Within the hour.  I’ll just have to synthesize the correct antidote and adjust the delivery medium for Kovadian physiology.  Mr. Worf, were any of your party in direct contact with the wire for more than three minutes?”

“No, doctor.”

“Good, then you should suffer no ill effects.  More than three minutes and the cellular damage is set in motion, and continues to cascade, even after the victim is no longer in contact with the krinselinib.”

The Emikun’s relief at having the cause of his illness identified was soon replaced by rage, and a certainty that Starfleet personnel, in the employ of the Ensari, must have been responsible. 

“When else could this have happened, except during the time when we were escorted from your transporter room to our quarters?   That took perhaps five minutes – long enough from what your doctor says.”

“But anyone who handled the wire would have risked exposure, and there are no records of anyone’s everhaving been treated for krinselinib radiation on the Enterprise,” the doctor countered.

“They could have had it in a containment vessel just as your people used when they found it.”

“Not without being easily observed by someone else in the party,” Picard said.

“A smaller vessel, then!” spluttered the Emikun.  “Why are you resisting the idea that suspicion might fall upon one of your people?  Should this not be an impartial investigation?”

“And so it is.  No one is above suspicion, but neither will I leap to conclusions.  Mr. Worf will speak with all crew members who had any contact with your party during your arrival.  Meanwhile, we must not ignore the fact that the wire may have been placed before you left Marisel IV.  Who has access to your ceremonial garments besides yourself?”

“My wardrober has held that position for five generations.  Her great-great-grandmother served my great-great-grandfather.  I would trust her with my life.”

Picard nodded.  “Loyalty like that is a precious thing.  Nonetheless, as you have pointed out, no one is above suspicion.  I will speak with her myself, if you permit.  And you are welcome to be present.”

“Send Agnulas to me at once,” the Emikun called from his bed, where he was forced to remain while the doctor monitored his reaction to the first treatment. 

The middle-aged, simply-dressed woman who entered a moment later looked frightened half to death.  Hearing that the Emikun was being treated and was expected to make a full recovery erased most of the fear from her face.  But she claimed no knowledge of the wire, and nothing out of the ordinary involving the ceremonial cloak had happened during her tenure in office, let along during the last few days.  “Still, if the poison was in your cloak, Your Grace, I must be at fault for not noticing it, if nothing else.  I have failed you where four generations of my family have not.  I have tarnished my family’s good name and I humbly offer you my resignation.”

Picard turned a steely look to the Emikun; he had no desire to see innocent people hurt in this investigation.  Beverly tightened her jaw, preparing herself not to speak up when the Emikun said something selfish or thoughtless.  To her surprise, his reply to Agnulas was mild.   He reassured her that he bore no suspicions, and even inquired how long she spent in the folding and packing of the ceremonial robes. 

“Each one takes five or ten minutes, Your Grace.  They have to be folded just so, and stuffed with lining cloths to prevent them from creasing.”

“Dr. Crusher, perhaps Agnulas should receive this treatment as well. “

“Have you felt unwell, Agnulas?” Beverly inquired.

“More tired than I’d expect.  I’ll admit to that.  But I thought it was just the strain of travel. I can still take care of my duties,” she added with a quick nod to the Emikun.

“I’m sure you can.  But the treatment takes only a short time each day for three days.  We can do the first one now if you wish.  It’s best if you lie down – with Your Grace’s permission, I’ll go with Agnulas to her quarters now.   I’ll also need to give Zemot his second treatment with the bone stimulator.”

The doctor excused herself, and a moment later so did Picard, assuring the Emikun that he would receive a full report on Mr. Worf’s investigation of the crew.  I suppose I’d better brief Will on this situation as well, he thought.  Sonner rather than later, he was sure that it would mushroom to involve the Ensari, whether they were behind the poisoning or not.

As she followed Agnulas out through the common area, Beverly heard Durala’s soft chant coming from Zemot’s room.   It crept into one’s mind so easily, echoing in the background and creating a pool of serenity deep inside.  After finishing with Agnulas, she returned to her young patient.   Durala’s chant had faded to a hum, and now died away.  “Welcome, doctor.”   The stimulator treatment showed that the boy’s fracture was well on the way to complete healing. 

“You won’t need to wear that sling tomorrow,” Beverly told him with a smile.

“But I can if I want to, right?”

“You’re not using it as a way to get sympathy from your tutor, are you?”

His mother smiled.  “Bergmal is too wise in the ways of young students to be fooled thus.  But Zemot has discovered the sling is an excellent place to hide sweets.  And now young man, it is time for you to go to sleep.  Show your gratitude to the doctor first.”

“Thank you, Dr. Crusher.”

“You’re welcome.  You’ve been a very good patient, Zemot.   Goodnight, Durala.”

As she left the room, she heard Durala take up her chant again and paused to listen for a moment.   She could almost feel the day’s stress slide off her shoulders.


Deanna was digging into a chocolate sundae in Ten-Forward.  “That usually means you’ve had a tough day,” said Beverly as she took a seat at the table. 

“Tonight it just means I’m in the mood for chocolate.  From everything I’ve heard, the Ensari are much easier to work with than the Kovadi.  Every evening they distribute a printed agenda for the next day to everyone in their party, and to all of us assigned to them as well.   Meals, audiences, recreation times – and once it’s on the agenda, it does not change.   As long as you’re punctual, they’re low maintenance guests.”

“I wish you could visit the Kovadi quarters while they’re here. One of the Emikun’s wives has been using a healing technique that I think you’d be interested in.”  She went on to describe Durala’s chant, telling Deanna all she could remember about it. 

“You’re right, I would be very interested in learning more about it.   Would you have time to ask Durala a few questions for me?”

“I’m sure I can manage that.  What do you want to know?”

Just as Deanna was finishing up her list of questions, her comm badge summoned her to the captain’s ready room.  There she found Riker and Picard discussing the events of the day.   “Deanna, thank you for joining us.   Are you aware of what’s been transpiring with the Emikun and the krinselinib poisoning?”

“Beverly filled me in on the basics.”

Picard glanced out the window for a moment, which gave Riker a chance to catch Deanna’s eye and brush a finger across the corner of his mouth.   She just flicked the tiny fragment of chocolate from her upper lip into her mouth when the captain turned back.

He studied her for a moment and said gravely, “A wise woman once told me that one must savor every speck of the chocolate.  To do otherwise would be …”

“…would be ungrateful to the cacao beans that gave their lives,” she finished along with him.  “A wise woman, eh?  My mother will be so proud.”  Will snickered, Deanna rolled her eyes upward, and even Jean-Luc smiled.  For a moment they were just three friends enjoying each other’s company.  Then practicalities prevailed.

“Have you gotten any impressions from the Ensari that would indicate reluctance to carry through with the treaty, or any active intentions to sabotage it?”

“Nothing that specific.   While the Ensari certainly are not Vulcans, they don’t indulge in a very rich emotional life.  Their by-the-book attitude runs deep.  I haven’t sensed anything you could call seething resentment, but I do catch an occasional impression of resignation …  as though they may not be wildly in favor of the treaty, but they’ve committed to it.”  She looked at Will and shrugged.  “It’s on the agenda, so to speak … “

“So it will happen,” he finished for her.

 “I have an assignment for you,” the captain said. “The Ensari have not yet been informed about the Emikun’s illness.  Tomorrow when Will tells them, I’d like you to pay particular attention to the reactions.  Just be alert for anything that seem out of the ordinary.”

“Of course, captain.”


Picard’s mouth stretched wide, sucking in as much air as he could.  There was a piercing pain in his chest and the hair on his forehead was matted with sweat.  One hand wiped the salty drops away, but found no hair there.   Hair.  He hadn’t had hair like that in …  oh.   His breath slowed.  His eyes opened to survey the familiar surroundings of his bedroom.   Nausicans again.  Why had he dreamed of Nausicans for two nights in a row?  It was only an hour until his scheduled wake time.   He reached for a book from his shelf of collectibles.  “Computer, reading light.”


Jack was so far away.  She kept walking and walking, but the tiny speck on the horizon never seemed to get bigger.  “Jack!” she screamed into the wind, but she knew he couldn’t hear her.  She marched on, but the speck disappeared over the horizon.  She found herself at the top of a cliff.  The air was suddenly still and a crowd of somberly dressed people milled around.  A man stepped close to her and said, “It’s a long way down.”  She looked over the edge at the endless drop below.  He put an arm around her and started to walk her away from the edge.  His arm was warm and he was familiar, but she couldn’t place him.  Then it came to her.  Jack’s brother.   But that noise in the background.  What was that?  She tried to cling to him but he was moving away from the cliff and beckoning her to follow.  She wanted to, if only she could stop that noise.  Suddenly she was awake and speaking to the ceiling.  “Computer, cancel wake signal.”  She allowed herself one yawn and stretch, and then she was up and moving into her day.


Between tending to patients in sickbay, Beverly checked on the progress of the blood samples she had drawn from Emikun two days before.  As expected, the sample treated with the antidote for krinselinib showed a reduction in abnormal cells.  But so did the sample that had been treated with the antidote for garnisek.  That was curious enough that she called Worf to her office. 

“When your team located the krinselinib wire, did you end the sweep at point?”

“Yes, doctor.”  Worf scowled.  “I was perhaps not strict enough with my team.  We should have swept the area for the remaining substances.”

“I’m not so sure I wouldn’t have done just what you did, under the circumstances.  Was garnisek one of those you hadn’t yet done?”

Worf consulted a Padd and confirmed that it was.   “I will sweep the Kovadi quarters for it immediately.   And for the other two as well.”

“Those two aren’t showing any unexpected results in my tests, so the odds are lower.  I’ll go along with you.  I need to give Agnulas and the Emikun their next treatments, and if you find what I suspect, I’ll have to add a second antidote to the regimen.   I don’t suppose the Emikun is going to be very happy about this.   Have you and the captain turned up anything in your investigation that looks like progress?”

“Nothing so far.  None of the ship’s personnel seem to have cause or opportunity to harm the Emikun or disrupt the treaty process.”

As expected, the security team located an even tinier strand of garnisek in another fold of the Emikun’s ceremonial cloak.  They quickly disposed of it, and because Worf was Worf, they conducted thorough scans for the other retro-irradiants as well, turning up nothing further.   Agnulas accepted the news stoically, certain that it was more proof that she had somehow failed in her duty.  She and Worf would probably get along really well, thought Beverly.   The Emikun was more volatile in his reactions.  She let him vent for a few moments, then got him settled down a bit by beginning the new treatment and assuring him that Captain Picard and much of the ship’s crew were hard at work to solve the crime.  “Meanwhile, the good news is that your healing should progress much more quickly now that we’re treating the entire problem instead of just a portion of it.  I think you can expect to feel like your old self in another day or so.”

“My old self?  With the strength and vigor I had forty years ago?” 

Beverly was pretty sure she detected humor in his voice.  She gave him a sidelong look and replied, “I’m a doctor, Your Grace, not a miracle worker.”

On her way through the common area, Beverly saw Durala chatting with another wife.  “You mentioned an interest in plant-based healing yesterday.”  The Kovadi woman nodded.  “Would you like to see our botanics section?  By remote camera, I mean.  I know you can’t leave this area until it’s time for your departure.”

“I’d like that.” 

“I’ll arrange for the camera.  How would fifteen hundred be?”

“Fine.  I look forward to it.”

There were only a few other crew members at work in the botanical section.  Beverly told them about her plan, so they wouldn’t be surprised by a tiny drone camera hovering near them.   She had already checked with Data to be sure one was available, and he had offered to set it up for her within the hour. 

Just before fifteen hundred, she returned to deck fourteen, and she and Durala settled comfortable in front of the display screen in Durala’s room.  Beverly held a small metallic sphere in one hand, demonstrating how she could control the camera by rolling it in her fingers.  She started with the herbal collection, which Durala was particularly interested in.   Beverly pointed out a few of the herbs her grandmother had used when modern medical supplies were scarce.  “’Here’s rosemary – that’s for remembrance.’  Although we use it as a savory herb today.  For cooking,” she added.  “The part about remembrance was just a quote from one of humankind’s greatest authors.  I don’t know that rosemary ever provided any true medicinal compounds.”

Durala examined the shape of the leaves.  “It reminds me a little of eejowi.  We make a tea from it to help when our memories grow weak.  I would have used it as part of Zemot’s ceremony if I’d had some.”

“Tell me – is the ceremony targeted just to one person, or can it affect several people at once?”

“To be most effective, it must be personal.  I talked with Zemot about bearing his injury without complaint.  We talked about other times when he had been brave, and I instructed him to let his dreams carry him to those times on the river of the meditation.”

“The river of meditation — is that the chant you were doing?  It was very soothing.”

“I wasn’t sure whether you paid attention to it or not.  I am aware that outsiders are sometimes skeptical of our ways.”

“To be honest, I was.  I’m still not sure how much credit I give it … but I truly did sense that it helped Zemot to be relaxed and focused, and anything that does that can only benefit a patient.  I think I even felt a bit of its effects myself.”

“So you have answered your own question – yes, the ceremony can affect more than one person.  Did you feel anything else beyond relaxation, Doctor Crusher?”

“Anything else?  Like …”

“Did you notice anything different in your dreams?  Perhaps several dreams that all have something in common?”  She could read the answer on Beverly’s face.  “You see, the river of meditation carries the dreamer.  With Zemot, our talk before the meditation helped him direct the river to the feelings he needed to re-experience.   But when someone is accidentally swept into the river without conscious direction, one cannot say where it will take her.  To something important to her … but good or bad, comforting or unsettling, even frightening … one cannot know.  We say, ‘when you fall into the river, you never know what shore it will bring you to.’  Has the river taken you to a disturbing place?”

“I dreamed very vividly of my husband.  He was killed in the line of duty fourteen years ago.  But this was before that happened.  I woke up feeling the way I used to feel.  I loved waking up when he was home on leave … reaching out and knowing he was that close.  And then … realizing he wasn’t, again … it was devastating.” 

“And you dreamed more of him?”

“The second time was about his death.  Only he didn’t die, he just disappeared over the horizon.  But then there was a cliff and I knew he wasn’t coming back.  We all knew, even his brother.  But the strange thing is, Jack didn’t have a brother.  But he had one in my dream.  And it was …” she paused.  If Jean-Luc Picard ever appeared in her dreams, it was no one else’s business.  Not even his.  “It was another friend from Starfleet.” 

She shook her head.  “Maybe I’m not a good dream river swimmer.  I’m not feeling strengthened or enlightened by these dreams – just confused.”

“Have you been deeply involved with anyone since your husband died?”

“Once, but it was only for a short time, and that was some years ago.  Circumstances made it impossible to continue.”  Even now, Beverly felt a twinge of guilt at not being flexible enough to accept Odan in all his forms.  She always wanted to believe that true love could look beyond the physical, but that experience had taught her the limits of her idealism. 

“And was he the man who appeared at the end of your dream?”

“No.  Someone else.  Someone I’ve known a long time as a friend.”

“The river doesn’t tell you the answer to your questions.  It takes you to the place where you need to search.  I don’t have the skills of a dream reader, and I don’t know you well, but something seems clear to me.  You dreamed of the happiness you knew with a mate.  And then of a vast emptiness after his loss.   I believe the dreams are reminding you of what’s missing in your life.”

“I couldn’t argue with that.” 

 “All I can say is, let the river tell you where to look.  The answer may be what you want.  It may not.  It may take time to know what question you seek the answers to.  But your mind knows where to look – the river has already shown you the way.”

Onscreen, a botany technician was peering directly into the camera.

“I don’t know.  It was cruising around as expected, but about five minutes ago it stopped and it’s just been hovering in place like this.  It’s kind of weirding me out.”

Doctor Crusher’s voice came from the tiny drone.  “Sorry. Something else took our attention for a bit.   We’ll head over to the vegetable section now.”   The drone moved off. 

Down on deck fourteen, as soon as the human and Kovadi women each realized the other was trying not to laugh, their mutual failure was assured.  When the giggles subsided, Durala said, “I have really enjoyed getting to know you, Doctor Crusher.  It has made the trip more pleasant than most official journeys.  And I nearly missed it.”

“You did?”

“I was delayed by a servant with a small emergency, and got there just in time for departure.  I even missed the official portrait.  I knew my husband was absorbed in the treaty process to come when he didn’t chide me for that.”

“I’m glad you made it as well.  Oh, and I have a list of questions our ship’s counselor has about the dream ceremony.”

“I have some duties to attend to, but if you’ll leave them with me, I can record answers for her this evening.”

Beverly pressed a recessed patch on the silver ball, sending the drone back to its dock.  “That sounds fine.  I’m sorry our tour wasn’t more extensive, but I enjoyed the chance to talk.  I’m sure I’ll see you again tomorrow.  And I’ll want to give Zemot’s arm a final once-over.”


The captain asked Will, Deanna, Beverly, Worf and Data to meet with him in the conference room after dinner that evening. 

“Mr. Worf, any new information from the crew interviews?”

“No, sir.  There does not seem to have been a moment when anyone was close enough to the Emikun to have slipped anything into his hood.  Even if they had, there would scarcely have been enough time for the poison to begin working.  The Emikun removed his ceremonial robe as soon as he arrived in his quarters.  I believe those wires had to have been put in place before they left Marisel IV.”

“Will, Deanna, what was the response when you informed the Ensari group of the poisoning incident?”

Will answered first.  “They took it very much in stride.  If anything, they were a bit peeved by the idea of having to make adjustments to the treaty timetable.  Without saying as much, they gave the idea that this is the sort of nonsense one has to put up with when dealing with the Kovadi.  Big on ceremony and drama.”

“And that may have a lot to do with what I sensed from them emotionally,” Deanna added.  “What I didn’t sense seemed most striking – there was no sense of surprise when Will delivered the news.  But whether that’s because they already knew it had happened, or it was just a case of ‘what do you expect from the Kovadi,’ I can’t say.”

“Beverly, the status of your patients?”

“Both recovering nicely, now that we’re treating both forms of radiation.  I expect them to be completely fit by tomorrow afternoon’s arrival time at Centaurus.  The same for the boy who broke his arm.  He’s perfectly fine now, although I’ll give him one final check in the morning.  There have been no other health issues among the Kovadi party, and no requests for medical services from the Ensari at all.”

Data spoke up. “I agree with Mr. Worf.  It seems the most likely time for commission of the act was before the Emikun’s party arrived on board the Enterprise.  While we cannot return to the scene of the crime, at least not immediately, perhaps we should try to reconstruct as much as we can of the scene within our own space.”

“Perhaps so,” the Captain nodded.  “Mr. Data, will you join Doctor Crusher, Mister Worf, and myself in the Kovadi quarters tomorrow morning?  And you might want to wear your deerstalker and cape.” 

“Captain?  I do not think the cultural reference will be enlightening to the Kovadi.”

“Of course not, Mr. Data.  Regulation uniform will be fine.”

As they rose to leave, Beverly told Deanna that Durala would get her the answers to her questions about the dream ceremony. 

“Dream ceremony?” Picard inquired.   Beverly described it.  “Oh, yes, I do recall hearing a chant of some sort on my way in or out of the Emikun’s quarters on occasion.  I recall that it was very pleasant.  I even stopped to listen for a few minutes.  I hope that wasn’t what’s been giving me these bloody awful dreams lately.”

“Bad dreams?”

“Nausicans.  I don’t remember details, but I know I’ve been dreaming of Nausicans the last two nights, and there’s nothing pleasant about that.”

And unpleasant though it may have been, he was not done with Nausicans in his dreams.  That night he relived in great detail the moment when a Nausican thug had caught him by surprise, spearing him from behind with an ugly pointed weapon and almost ending his life.


The next morning, as Beverly administered the final rounds of treatment to the Emikun and Agnulas, Picard gathered the other Kovadi in the common area of deck fourteen and explained that they would try to recreate the scene in the reception chamber on the day of their departure.  A chair was placed in the center of the room to represent the Emikun’s ceremonial seat.  Data pressed Worf into service to play the part of the photographer.  The wives and children swirled around trying to create the bustle and excitement of departure day. 

Data watched Agnulas as she walked through her actions.   “I had the trunk holding the Emikun’s robe brought to the preparation room.  I opened the trunk, took out the robe, and unfolded it, setting aside the packing cloths.  I placed it on the hanging form and brushed it carefully from top to bottom.  That includes opening the hood out completely and brushing it both inside and out, so if anything had been inside the hood then, I would have found it.   Then I helped the Emikun on with it and secured the clasp that holds it across his chest.”

Pretending to have donned his robe, the Emikun took his seat and the wives began shooing children into position for the photograph.  As they got into their places, Data noticed Durala standing off against one wall, out of the action.  “What was your place in the photograph?” he inquired.

“As third wife, I would normally be in the center of the line, there in the back,” she replied.  “But I wasn’t there for the picture.  Remember, Beverly,” she said, turning to the Doctor.   “I told you yesterday that I nearly missed the departure altogether.”

“But you were,” insisted one of the other wives, gesturing to the empty space next to her.  “You were right here between Tsitsana and me.” 

“No, I wasn’t.  Remember I came in just before we all beamed to the Enterprise?  I even apologized for being late.”  She looked to the Emikun for confirmation.

“I recall that you were almost late for the picture.  You arrived just in time to get into your place, we made the portrait, and then you left to retrieve something … “

“Your sharung!” interjected one of the children.

“..and you got back just in time for our departure,” the ruler concluded.

“With all due respect, Your Grace, I was not there for the picture.  I was on my way to the chamber when I was stopped by one of the servants.  She was in a panic about what lessons the children were to study during this trip, and I had to help her get the proper materials.”

Picard said, “I clearly remember that there were five wives in the portrait.  The question is, if Durala wasn’t there, who was in her place?  Emikun, do you have a copy of the portrait with you?”

The picture was produced, and using the computer to enlarge the center section, Data homed in on the little bit that was visible of the wife in the center of the line.  “All that is visible of your face is the lower portion, but one can clearly see the same mark you bear.” A tiny tattooed symbol on Durala’s right jawline was indeed visible in the picture as well.

“But wait.  Look at my hands … or rather, not my hands.  There are no marks on them.  But that morning Zemot had spilled a glass of dawberry juice.  I got it on my fingers, and you know how vividly it stains.  In fact, you can still see a bit of it.”  She put out her right hand, where the purple blotch was still faintly visible on two fingers.  “It was fresh and bright that morning – but whoever this is in the picture doesn’t have dawberry juice on her hand.”   

“The solution seems elementary,” Data said.  “Someone arranged to delay Durala on her way to the reception chamber.  Meanwhile, they had a duplicate ready to take her place.  With the ceremonial hood in place, and a copy of Durala’s tattoo on her jaw, no one would have questioned whether this was the real Durala.  She slipped in just in time for the picture, then made an excuse to slip out again quickly, before she had to say more than a word or two.  And her position in the picture is surely not just coincidental.  As the third wife of five, she was in the middle of the line – directly behind the Emikun.  She would have had no trouble concealing a small containment vessel in the sleeve of her robe, and dropping the wires into the folds of the Emikun’s hood as they posed.”

“And by running out after the picture, she created a delay that insured the retro-irradiants would stay in the Emikun’s hood for several extra minutes, giving them time to do their damage before the robe was removed,” added Worf.  “I suspect the false Durala had a way of signaling the servant who delayed the real Durala, letting her know it was safe to let the real one proceed to the chamber.”

“She did receive a message as we were getting the lesson materials,” Durala said.  “I didn’t think anything about it, but it wasn’t long after that when she said she could get the rest of them together by herself, and I ran straight to the chamber.”

“Captain, you have my apologies for suggesting that a member of your crew was the criminal.  It seems that we must look within our own planet for the guilty ones.  This treaty is going to change our way of life, for both Kovadi and Ensari.  It is not surprising there are some who would try to derail it, although a bit disconcerting to find that they are willing do to so at the cost of my own life.  But they have not been successful.  This afternoon when we arrive at the Centaurus Treaty Center, their efforts will be for naught.  Kovadi and Ensari will walk into the future together.  And when we return home, we will trace this crime to those who are truly at fault.”


A few hours later, the senior officers assembled in the transporter room to bid a formal farewell to their Kovadi guests.  Data spoke quietly to the Emikun.  “I am sure you realize that the servant who arranged to delay Durala in all probability no longer works at the palace.”

“To be sure.  Most likely gone within an hour of our departure.  Mr. Data, you seem to excel at deduction.  Would it be possible for you to accompany us back to Marisel IV and continue your investigation?”

“I am honored by the request, Your Grace.  However, even if my duties aboard the Enterprise did not prevent my leaving the ship for an extended time, I would not be able to comply.  Our Prime Directive forbids our interference in the internal actions of other civilizations.”

“But you have already begun this investigation.”

“Only as it pertained to the possibility of involvement by Enterprise crew members.  Now that we are reasonably certain the crime was not committed aboard the ship, it would no longer be appropriate for me to be involved.  I am confident that your own people will serve you well.  However, I highly recommend they read the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, specifically his stories about Mr. Sherlock Holmes.  They are excellent preparation for any investigator.”

On the other side of the transporter pad, Durala took Beverly’s hand and smiled.  “May the river bring you happiness.”  


The next morning over coffee and croissants, Picard was asking Beverly more about the dream ceremony.  “It’s not my nature to believe anything that smacks of hocus-pocus, but I do have to wonder.”

“You mean the dream ceremony?”

He nodded.  “Take this as a sign of ego if you will, but when our reenactment showed that Durala was replaced for the portrait, my first thought was to deny that it could have happened. Why?  Because surely I would have noticed it.  I was sorely disappointed to think that someone could have pulled a switch like that under my nose.  But what if I did notice it?  What if on some subconscious level my brain noted an oddity in the way the false Durala came and went so quickly for the portrait?  What if I noticed, without realizing I’d noticed, the difference in the voices?”

“And your mind was prodding you to pay attention to that inconsistency by having you dream about Nausicans?”

“The threat to the Emikun came from the person who was positioned directly behind him for the portrait.  If my dreams were trying to tell me to pay attention to the one behind the victim, what better symbol could they dig up from my mind than Nausicans?  There they were for three nights in a row, but I didn’t grasp the symbolism until now.”

“That’s one way to interpret it.”

“You were present for more of the chanting than I was.  Did you notice any effects in your dreams?”

“I did have some particularly vivid ones in the last few nights.”

“Anything you’re willing to share?  New insights into the meaning of life?”

“I don’t know about that.  But they have made me think about some aspects of my life that it may be time to change.”

“Such as?”

“You know, Jean-Luc, there’s something I’ve meant to tell you for a while.”


“Can I be totally honest?”

“Of course, Beverly.  You know that.”

 “I do.”  She stared into her cup for a long moment, as she thought about everything that could change – for better or worse.  “I’ve been thinking about asking Starfleet Medical to use the Enterprise as a posting for interns.  It could be a wonderful learning environment for them.  For a long time I wasn’t sure I’d have the patience for it, but I think that’s changed.”

“Another croissant?”

“No, thanks, I’d better get to Sickbay.  So you wouldn’t have any objections to interns?”

“Not at all.  Although if Starfleet Medical asks about the reason you’d like to put the program in place, I wouldn’t tell them that it came to you in a dream.”

“Point taken.  See you at the staff meeting.”

She left Jean-Luc sipping the last of his tea and feeling as though he had just noticed something, but he wasn’t entirely sure what it might have been.

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