When Wesley rescues a girl from a frightening creature, the consequences take everyone by surprise.
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek. Wish I owned Wesley, though.
One Lifetime's Not Enough
Oracle's Cavern, Chara III
She sat quietly, patiently waiting. She was always waiting. She had waited for centuries, and would wait centuries more if need be.
The oracle sat before her, brow wrinkled in heavy concentration. The oracle was the one thing that gave her hope, slim though that hope was. After all, she was bound her with it, for what was starting to look like eternity. It rarely spoke. Not very good company, come to think of it. She sighed. The last time it had spoken, it told her the riddle of her freedom:
In this cavern shall you remain
Until the a man you've never seen
Rescues you from peril
That's never been.
Then to him you shall be bound
Until his dying hour.
At his side, learn strength and skill,
And wise use of your power.
That was it. The only way she could ever get out was to have someone she'd never met save her life. Well, the "man she'd never seen" part shouldn't be too hard. After all, she'd been trapped in this cavern for three hundred years. Everyone she'd known before was long dead by now. Maybe not the elves. But even if she was freed, she'd never see them again. She's have to stick with the stranger.
The oracle extended its hand. Slowly, it held up five fingers. Five? Hmm. No, she didn't see any...
Captain's log, star date 44299.6
We have been sent to Chara III, an M-class planet orbiting the star Chara, to retrieve a probe that fell into that world's atmosphere. It poses no threat to the local life forms, but would be a breach of the Prime Directive as the civilizations on Chara III pre-industrial. The world is unique in that there are at least five races of sentient beings. The most wide-spread population is physiologically identical to the humans of Earth. This will make it easy for a small away team to blend in and recover our lost probe.
The probe itself fell on the largest of the three continents, in a city near the middle of the continent. Luckily, the city appears to have been deserted long before the probe fell. Commander Riker will lead the away team. We should arrive in three days.
NCC-1701-D, Enterprise, bridge
Captain Picard strode briskly out of his ready room. "Number One, have you decided what the make-up of your away team will be?"
"Yes, sir," Riker said. "I'd like to bring Data, Mr. Barclay, and Mr. Crusher. It will be his last chance for an away mission before he heads off to the academy."
"Very good. Make it so," said the captain. He looked over at Wesley, where he sat at Ops. The ensign would be leaving them in less than a week. Picard still remembered his own time at the academy with chagrin. He'd changed a lot since then; becoming less reckless, though no less brave and daring. In part, it was due to age and experience. In short, I grew up, he thought wryly. Wesley was not nearly as reckless as Picard had been at that age. Wesley would never have gotten involved with the Nausicaans as Picard had. Or maybe he would. He hasn't had a lot of experience with companions of his own age, after all.
Wesley wasn't sure whether to be excited or not. Going on the away mission was an honor, but they'd have to blend in with the population. That meant medieval costumes, and those could be uncomfortable. From what he recalled, there was a piece on the male costume called a fishpiece? No, codpiece. Just looks silly.
"Data, Wesley, you're with me." Commander Riker's voice cut through his thoughts.
"Aye, sir." Wesley followed Commander Riker to the turbolift. Data would use the replicator to create costumes for each of them. Wonder what I'll be wearing? Hope it's not too embarrassing. But, not many people get to visit Chara III, so it doesn't matter. He wasn't sure whether to hope to meet someone or not. And which race?
There were the humans. That race was familiar to point of being dull. Then, there was a race that looked a little like Vulcans. At least, their ears were pointed. They were taller, though. And all of them were beautiful. The file on Chara III called them /nostale/, and went on to say that the race was broken into two main groupings: the ones who liked the humans /(nilmenostale)/, and the ones who killed any human they came across /(mornanostale)/. Actually, a lot like Vulcans and Romulans, except that the two groups were of the same race. Then there were the shorter ones. They were strong, though -- a lot stronger than the humans. The tallest of them was still under five feet tall. They stayed mostly in the high mountains, living in caves. Another group that stayed in the mountains were also short, but had grey skin an dfang-like teeth. They were sentient, but not very intelligent. Very hostile. They often formed alliances with the mornanostale. The last sentient race that the file listed was a reptilian race native to another continent. There wasn't much chance of running into one of them.
"Commander Riker, what do we do if we run into someone?"
"Well, if it's one of the friendly people, they shouldn't see anything wrong with us. Even Data can be explained as a traveler from far away. That's rare, but not unheard of. If it's something hostile, we try to get out of sight, so we can transport to safety. And we'll have phasers; it's a last resort, but some of the beings on Chara III seem to have abilities that mimic phaser blasts. Don't worry about it too much, Wes. The city we're going to has been deserted for almost three hundred years."
Wesley thought about that. "Sir, why was the town deserted? The file didn't say anything."
"We don't know. It was probably disease, or maybe the water source dried up. Might even have been his by those grey guys. Whatever it was, it was three hundred years ago. It won't have any effect on our mission."
Oracle's Cavern, Chara III
Was the cavern whispering? Or was she finally going insane, trapped with that lifeless oracle?
Maybe lifeless was unfair. It couldn't help the fact that its tongue was gone. Whenever it had a prophecy to deliver, something else took hold of it. Besides, its story was as tragic as her own.
Centuries earlier, before even she had been born, the oracle had been a normal human girl. At the age of twelve, the guardian priests had sought her out, taking her from her family and the only life she'd ever known. She was brought to this cavern, left with the old oracle, and starved. Starved until her soul was barely connected to her body, and the spirit of the oracle could leave its old host and take her over. Her soul had been sent on to the next world, and the empty shell of the old oracle taken away. But her body remained, delivering the prophecies that the guardian priests recorded, and protected. She had been the oracle for almost a thousand years, and would likely remain the oracle for a thousand more.
Yes, she definitely felt sorry for the oracle, but... "No fair using your powers during game time, got it?"
The oracle nodded slowly, then pointed to the far wall of the cavern. She looked.
The cavern wasn't whispering, but there were faint scraping sounds coming from the wall the oracle had indicated. This was exciting! Three centuries of bland, boring repetetive days, days where she couldn't even see the sun, and now two new things in the past month! She might be able to handle her captivity, after all.
First, almost a whole month ago, a strange machine came crashing through the roof of the cavern. It had blinking lights, and antennae. It had provided two weeks of fun as she reduced it to its base components. Then, she took another week to learn how to reduce those to the basic elements. Of course, she had no idea what the machine was for, but it was nice when new toys dropped from the sky.
Now, the scraping at the cavern wall. It sounded like someone was trying to break in. She knew that no one from her side of the old war would come near this cavern, so it must be the enemy.
"You know what, oracle? I think he's going to try and kill me."
The oracle nodded again.
A small hole opened in the wall. Now she could see the tools that the digger was using. Rusted pick. How clichÃ©. Soon he'd break through. "I wonder if they still remember me? After all, it's been a while since I saw them. Damn lizards."
The oracle made a strange grimace. A smile? I guess it's forgotten how to smile...
"Well, oracle, he'll find me a little different from last time."
The oracle gave her a look. A look that said no shit, genius. You weren't immortal when his ancestors knew you. Great. It had learned sarcasm from her.
The wall crumbled, and a tall, reptilian man lept into the cavern. His skin was an opalescent black, and his eyes glowed green. He advanced, slowly, brandishing his pick threateningly. He hissed at her in a strange language.
That's when the cavern's ceiling fell in.