STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION

"Code of Honor"

"Captain's log, stardate 41235.25. Our location planet Ligon II, source of a rare vaccine needed on Federation planet Styris IV. Starfleet has instructed me..." Picard said.

Full complement of crew at stations on the bridge, Data at OPS, Geordi at conn. Jack and Deanna were flanking Picard.

"... to engage in a friendly visit and open treaty negotiations to acquire this substance." he continued.

"Standard orbit, sir." Geordi said.

"Lieutenant Yar is calling from Cargo Bay One, sir. Standing by to beam Ligonian welcoming party aboard." Jack said.

"On our way. You have the helm, Mister Data." Picard said rising.

Picard lead Jack and Deanna into forward Turbolift.

As they entered and the door hissed closed behind them.

"Cargo One." he continued toward control. "Should be an interesting experience." he said to Jack and Deanna.

"Agreed. Not only are they closely humanoid but their history has remarkable similarities to ours." Jack said.

"But a highly structured society and they're exceedingly proud." Deanna said.

Then they entered the cargo deck. Tasha was waiting therewith a pair of security guards - one with a tricorder.

"They've insisted on using their own transporter device, sir..." Tasha said.

Picard nodded.

"It's their way, Lieutenant. Do they have our coordinates?" he said and Tasha indicated cleared area ahead of them on the Cargo Bay deck.

"They have, sir. Precisely. And they're standing by for your signal." she said.

"This is Captain Picard of the Starfleet vessel Enterprise. Please..." he said "... please do us the honor of visiting our vessel." he continued and looked at Deanna and she nodded.

After only a moment, a slightly different kind of transporter effect materialized five people. There were four extremely tall, elegant Black Guards who formed a square.

They were bare-waisted with metal collars - each with a centered jewel and each wore a hakama. Each had at least one major scar, and each carried a bo. Each wore as headgear a red, braided rope in a circular crown. One carried a rolled carpet. They face forward at attention, but their eyes took in everything.

The fifth person materializing was Hago m, who carried a dull metallic box. He bent down and kicked the carpet so that it unrolled towards Picard.

Then, Lutan beamed into view and stood for a moment. The Security Guard with the tricorder scanned the party quickly, then nodded to Tasha.

"Nothing concealed, sir." he said quietly to Picard.

Lutan stepped forward and looked about him for a moment.

"I am Lutan." she said.

Picard moved to greet him, raising both hands in the customary Ligonian greeting to show one was not holding a weapon. Lutan nodded, satisfied, and smiled. Without touching, he held his hands up in a like manner.

"Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Welcome aboard. These are my officers. Second in command, Commander Jackson Crusher; Ship's Counselor Deanna Troi; my security officer, Lieutenant Tasha Yar." he said.

"A woman? Your Chief of Security?" Lutan said.

"Yes, Lutan: that is her expertise."

Lutan and Hagon exchanged a near-amused look. Then Lutan turned to Picard.

"I am honored to meet your Officers." She said. "And this is my Secondary, Hagon." hhe said indicating Hagon. "A sample of the vaccine." she said indicated.

Hagon stepped forward with the metal box, extending it to Picard. But Tasha stepped forward to take it.

"My duty, Lutan." she said.

Almost before the words were out of her mouth, Hagon grabbed for the box.

Sorry, I am required to inspect..." she continued but was cut off.

"Aside, little one..." Hagon said.

Hagon whirled toward Picard forcing Picard to step back to avoid contact, but Tasha reacted protecting her Captain, with it ending in Hagon being flipped onto his back. Lutan's guards stepped forward menacingly but were stopped by a gesture from Lutan. Hagon looked up from his prone position, more puzzled than anything else.

"This... this is a woman?" he continued.

"How interesting!" Lutan said inspecting Tasha. "May we prove as surprising to you." he said to Picard.

If I may suggest, sir..." Deanna said in a low voice indicating for the Enterprise people to move back and give Lutan and his people room and also time to recover. "No apology. In their view, it would weaken us." she whispered.

Unlike Hagon and the Guards, he's beginning to enjoy this as Jack picks up the container Hagon had been holding, examined it and extended it to Picard.

Nothing concealed, Captain." Jack said. "Do you care to accept it?" he said while he extended it.

"Yes, yes, please do." he said.

"Unless you care to examine it further." Lutan said to Taha.

Picard saw it was time to turn on the charm.

"Absolutely not. This vaccine sample is a gift of life and we are honored at receiving it." he said. "Will you do us the honor of letting us entertain you now?" he said and indicated way into vessel.

"You may prepare it. We will join you shortly." Lutan said nodding.

With nothing else to do, the Enterprise group left the immediate area. They're not fools - security people remain in sight. Lutan and Hagon moved closer together, spoke in low tones.

"I ask forgiveness..." Hargon said but Luton cut him off.

"They are strange alien things. You bear no fault..."

"But the female..." Hargo continued.

"May be exactly what I've needed."

Data, Beverly and Deanna were seen entering the lounge, Data was carrying a bronze horse. Picard stood next to Lutan.

"Lutan, we're aware of many of your planet's achievements, and its unique similarity to an ancient Earth culture, which we all admire. On behalf of the Federation, therefore, I am proud to present to you this token of gratitude and friendship. From China's Sung Dynasty, Fourteenth Century." Picard said.

"Thirteenth Century, sir." Data said to Picard.

"Indeed?" he said.

"It is a most thoughtful gift. We are grateful." Lutan said accepting and admiring it.

Lutan handed the horse to Hagon. watching

Tasha with interest.

We from Ligon have always been apprehensive about strangers. We are not as technologically advanced as you; yet we possess something you do not - a vaccine which has been found to be an effective antidote to your deadly Anchilles fever. If your conduct toward us is worthy - if you respect our customs - and if we see this respect - we will become friends. Then, we will make the vaccine available to all who need it." he continued while watching Tasha with interest.

Everyone applauded. Lutan swa proud and dignified. He swept the gathering with his eyes, which held on Tasha. Tasha met his gaze with confidence.

The room quieted down as Picard rose.

"If you require respect from us, I'm certain you will see it." he said.

"Surrounded by such friendship, I have no need of my guards." Lutan said. "I will return shortly. Prepare to transport me then." he said to the guards.

The Guards signaled obedience, began exiting. Picard and the others were puzzled by this.

"If there is something else, any final courtesy..." Picard said.

"Is it possible to see one of your wondrous holodecks? We have heard how they are used to train your officers."

Picard exchanged a quick, concerned look with Jack and Deanna.

"And used for many other things too." he said. "Commander Crusher, perhaps you and Counselor Troi can demonstrate." he continued turning.

"Is it possible for Lieutenant Yar to do so Captain? Some demonstration of defense training?" Lutan asked.

"We've noticed you are intrigued by her having security responsibilities. But such things are not at all unusual with us." Jack said.

"With us, it is the duty of women only to own the land, and the duty of men to protect and rule it." Hagon said.

"Much the same has happened in human history too." Deanna said amused.

Picard smiled, then turned to Tasha questioningly and she nodded.

"I'd like to do it, sir." Tasha said. "As a sign of respect, perhaps." she said to Lutan.

Picard nodded in agreement)

"Very well."

Tasha beckoned to Lutan and Hagon.

"This way, please." she said.

A couple of Enterprise Security Guards followed.

Tasha, followed by Lutan and Hagon, plus the two security team members, who stay in the b.g. were at holodeck and Tasha moved to the wall controls. She punched in some commands, reached for an aikido jacket from a peg, then walked to a bare area. She gave a coded command.

"Aikido. One."

An Aikido Opponent materialized on a mat. The image remained rigid, immobile. The visitors were much impressed.

"It won't move until my actions activate it." she continued amicably.

"You can create people? Without a soul?" Lutan said stepping in to examine the Aikido Opponent amazed.

"It's not a real person, Lutan. It has no life. Everything it does is controlled by computer." Taha said and moved close to the image. "Who am I? Do you hear me?" she said to the image.

The image didn't move. But when Tasha suddenly feinted, the image instantly blocked the blow.

"But it will feel real when it hits you."

She crouched and the image crouched, and they began to fight. After rapid and savage exchange, she threw the image.

Lutan eyed began to glow as he evaluated what he saw, watching with growing interest.

"A force like that cannot possibly come from an image, Lutan." Hagon said.

"Then you will show me, Hagon." Lutan said.

Hagon hesitated, but he had his order. He moved to the mat as Tasha stepped aside.

Hagon crouched, then made two feints, and then a move and was promptly dumped hard.

"Oh. . . . Oh..." he said trying to breath.

"Thank you, Lieutenant. How very Enlightening." Lutan said to Tasha.

Behind Tasha the image rises and stands, remaining

quiet.

"Aikido, vanish." she said into the air.

The image dissolved. Tasha went to the panel, shutdown the controls, took a towel from the wall, wiped off, and removed her jacket.

"I could create two - even three, but one is really enough. As you fight with it, it learns, and before long it knows exactly how to defeat you." she continued.

"Even the extraordinary Lieutenant Yar?" Lutan said with a smile.

"It forces us to keep improving." she said also smiling.

Lutan's eyes were glowing as he nodded.

"Your skill impresses me. I like You." He said.

He showed a definite reaction to Tasha, and she reacted to him similarly. Picard noticed both reactions.

Enterprise participants were all present at cargo deck with Lutan and Hagon. Good-byes were being exchanged.

"Farewell, my new friends of the noble Enterprise." he continued.

"Understanding has made friends of many different people. We've had a good beginning, Lutan." Picard said.

"May I also extend a personal farewell to Lieutenant Yar?" he asked.

Picard nodded. Tasha moved forward and Lutan extended his hand to her.

"In your Federation terms." he said.

Tasha took his hand and shook it. Lutan put an arm around her as if to hug her. Releasing his first hand, but still holding her, he reached up and touched the jewel at the center of his necklace. In an instant their images shimmer, and they were gone.

"Picard to bridge. Red alert!" he said.


The klaxon was sounding. Turbolift opened and Jack entered bridge immediately, crossing to man the Security Station.

"Shields up; activate photon Torpedoes!" he said.

Picard and Deana had come out of the turbolift right after him, crossing to their own positions.

"What com contact have we had with them?" Picard asked.

Data made a move at his panel, the klaxon ceased.

"With their orbital control station, sir." he said.

"Make contact there and on all hailing frequencies." Picard said and reached his posistion. "Enterprise to Lutan and Ligonian government. You have committed an unfriendly act. You will reply Immediately." He said and touched Lutan.

"Photon torpedoes ready, Captain." Jack said.

"Set for a display blast, a thousand meters short of planet surface. Fire!"

"Display blast away!" Jack said.

The torpedo spread traveled down toward the planet surface, then detonated in a spectacular display.

They all waited on the main bridge for some communication from the planet.

"Do we know the source of their transporter beam?" Jack asked Geordi.

"Our own transporter people tried to trace it, sir, but without Effect." he said.

"It reads similar to Starfleet's early efforts but uses the Heglenian shift to convert matter and energy in different..." Data said and stopped seeing Picard expression. "... which is actually not important at this time."

"This is Captain Picard of the Enterprise with a message to Lutan whom I have so far acknowledged as a friend. But you have now committed what our laws regard as an attack upon us, Lutan. And having visited us here, Lutan, you must certainly understand the power of our vessel. We have so far fired only a warning burst at you. We insist you reply to this message." Picard said touching his panel com.

Then they waited. Finally, Picard turned to Deanna.

"Opinion, Counselor. Will they injure Tasha?" he continued.

"I believe not, sir. In fact, they seem mainly curious. But in the case of Lutan I did feel other needs." she said.

"What kind of needs?" Jack asked.

"Some sexual attraction from all the males. Lieutenant Yar is physically very attractive. But I felt something else in the case of Lutan... something more like... avarice or ambition."

They were all puzzled at this.

"Other comments?" Picard asked and Data turned to him.

"If I may, sir... one of the things about them in the briefing studies was their respect for patience." he said.

Jack nodded.

"Strongly emphasized. And you can see it in the precise, ritualistic way they do things. I'm worried about Lieutenant Yar too, sir, but maybe we should sit and wait them out."

Picard considered this, then nodded. He turned to Deanna and Data.

"Stardate 41235.32. I am concerned. Over a full day of waiting with no response from..." he said.

Only Geordi was on duty with a couple of upper-deck Technicians at the bridge. Then Beverly Crusher entered the Bridge and crossed toward the Captain's Ready Room. Wesley was there too waiting in the Turbolift cab.

"... Lutan. We are now testing whether they are aware of our sensors probing them. So far, we believe we have pinpointed Lutan's government compound." he continued.

Beverly entered the ready room with Picard waiting inside. The vaccine, sir..." she said upset.

Picard rose.

"Yes, Doctor?"

"The vaccine..." she said then stopped and shrugged. "I'm a... physician; I've seen death. But not on the scale this could mean."

"Meanwhile, you were testing whether we can replicate the vaccine..."

"And we can't! Their sample works fine when used as an injection, but it becomes unstable when we try to replicate it. You must get vaccine from the planet, Captain. As much as you can. Immediately!"

"I'm aware of that, Doctor."

"You've never had to watch a patient die from this disease."

"That's true. But I've seen my share of death."

"Damn!" she said. "Where are the calluses we doctors are supposed to grow over our feelings?" she continued with a weak smile and shook her head.

"Perhaps the good ones never get them."

Beverly moved toward the exit, then stopped and turned, eyed him for a long moment.

"Yes, Doctor?" he continued hopeful.

She hesitated.

"May I speak about me and Jack's son Wesley?"

"What?" he said startled then recovered. "Well, yes. Yes, of course."

"He's so interested in starship operations. And..." she started then smiled. "... speaking as a mother, of course, he seems quite knowledgeable."

"Well, yes... speaking as a mother..."

"He's on the turbolift. You'll remember you ordered him to stay off the bridge." she indicated after inturupting him.

The whole subject upset Picard but he felt trapped now. And Beverly was his best friend's wife. He finally motioned for her to follow him toward the bridge.

Picard entered the bridge from the Ready Room and crossed toward his position. Beverly stayed half concealed in the Ready Room entry. In the b.g. at the turbolift, Wesley was quickly flattening himself almost out of sight. But Picard kept looking in that direction and this fact finally forced Wesley somewhat into sight.

Wesley finally came more fully into view and met Picard's eyes.

"I haven't stepped one foot on your bridge, Captain..." he said weakly.

As the other turbolift arrived, from which Jack, Data, and Deanna entered to see Picard in an apparent confrontation with Wesley. Jack moved in first, speaking rapidly.

"Wes?" Jack said confused and a little surprised. "I can ask him to leave..."

Picard threw a fast glance toward the Ready Room where Beverly had appeared in the doorway.

"No." he said.

"No?" Jack said and halted shocked but a little excited at the same time.

Picard could tell he was a little excited after knowing him for so long.

"Why don't you sit at Ops? Next to Lieutenant La Forge." he said to Wesley.

"Sir?" he said confused, shocked and excited but hid the excitement.

Jack had a little trouble not smiling at this.

"Sir?" Geordi said.

"Is the whole ship deaf?!" he said. "Sit down over there, young man!" he indicated. "Temporarily."

Jack looked at him saying 'Take it easy, he's only fifteen and not used to this'.

Picard nodded a little.

Wesley crossed to sit next to Geordi, eyeing the Bridge, the vessel's controls.

'This is heaven!' he thought.

"Captain, we have more information from the briefing studies on Ligon..." Deanna said.

"Excuse me." he said. "Doctor Crusher, some of this may interest you." he called.

Beverly stepped forward, crossing to join the group at the command position. Except for Deanna, all felt a moment of discomfort with her appearing from the Ready Room and Wesley at the Ops position. She stood next to Jack.

"Proceed with your analysis." he continued.

"It is a highly structured society in which people live by strict codes of honor. For example, what Lutan has done is similar to what certain American Indians once did, called "counting coup." That's from an obscure language called French -" Data said.

"A language which for centuries on Earth represented civilization, Mister Data."

"Indeed?" he said.

"I suggest you drop it please, Mister Data." Jack said.

A puzzled Data shrugged and went on.

"Yes sir. Counting coup could be as simple as touching an enemy with a stick in battle, or taking something from him and escaping. It was considered extremely Heroic." he said.

"And under these circumstances Lutan considers himself heroic, risking literally everything is the face of our superior power." Jack said.

"And it fits Lutan's personality profile as well. He has an abnormally high need for achievement - I've sensed it in him, very strongly." Deanna said and Picard nodded. "We should establish clearly also, that Lutan is dangerous. Self image for him is a function of how much he thinks he's achieved. Those who set their standards too high can kill to meet them."

"Why Tasha?" Beverly asked.

"As a Starfleet security officer, she may have represented his riskiest prize."

"Transmission from the planet surface, sir... Main viewer on." Data said to Picard.

"Yes, Lutan? What do you wish?" he said.

"You will display your image, Please." he said squinting.

"What is required is an image of Lieutenant Yar, well and..."

"Are you making demands, Captain?" Lutan interrupted.

"Sir..." Deanna started and motioned; Picard cut off his transmission. "According to the Ligon Code of Honor, Lutan has done what he set out to do - achieve recognition for being daring and bold." she continued.

"We've studied this in some depth now, sir. The proper thing for you to do now is to ask to get Tasha back." Jack said.

"Ask for her?" Picard said astonished.

"Politely, Captain." Data said.

"You have to remember Johnny, I know what I'm saying, me and Beverly are raising fifteen year old Wesley." Jack said.

He knew he was right so he sighed, nodded and touched his com button.

"And now, Lutan..." he said and swallowed irritation. "You have boldly taken the lieutenant from us and I ask that you... now please return her."

Jack nodded smiling.

"That's it." he said.

"Then come visit us, Captain, and we will return her to you."


At the main bridge Jack activated his panel com. Deanna watched, expressionless.

"First Officer to Transporter Chief..." he said.

But Deanna interrupted him.

"Forgive me but can you delay calling him?" she asked.

Data odded in agreement.

"Please. We must discuss the away party." he said.

"Am I included?" Picard asked.

Wesley was at the Ops position but distracted by what was going on.

"It concerns you directly, Captain."

"Wesley. It's time we left." Beverly said moving to the turbolift indicating to Wesley.

He stood up, disappointed that it's over. Picard saw this.

"Wesley... thanks for taking a turn at the controls." he said.

"Yes sir. By dad." Wesley said.

That had changed everything and a buoyant Wesley left he bridge with his mother.

"Commander..." Deanna started.

""Commander?" That's quite Formal..." Jack said.

"So is this request, sir. We believe it would be preferable if the captain led this away Party."

"Agreed, sir. Their customs concerning guests make it much Preferable." Data said.

"And I'm very much against it. Lutan is clearly a liar, and devious. Counselor Troi has admitted she believes him capable of killing. It is my duty to keep the captain out of danger, sir." Jack said to Picard. "Even after losing my brother and missing ten years of my life.".

"Except that Ligonian custom makes it clear that a visiting leader becomes an honored guest." he said. "Not us, not second in command... him." He indicated.

"And the custom requires Lutan to die rather than violate that." Deanna said.

Picard said nothing and waited for Jack to absorb all this.

"Yes... it does sound reasonable put that way." Jack said. "I warn you, Captain... if you get hurt, I'll put you on report!" he said to Picard.

This got smiles from everyone.

Ligon had an ascetic, Zen-garden feeling with a pebbled center enclosing a small, fountain. A single, simple, brilliant banner identified this an important place, and whatever design elements were visible reveal an interest in the abstract, perhaps a Mondrian-ish feeling. Two sentried were posted beside a doorway. Picard and Deanna beamed into shot. Lutan and Hagon came from inside the doorway and exchanged the "empty hands" ritual greeting with Picard.

"Welcome to my Centerplace, Captain Picard. Consider yourselves my honored guests." Lutan said.

"Every hospitality will be accorded you."

"This is my First One, Yareena."

"Lutan is a fortunate man." Picard said and she smiled graciously, but remain a bit behind him, according to custom. "You've met Counselor Troi."

"Yes." he said. "As on your vessel, you have only to name whatever courtesy we can provide."

"Then, sir... the courtesy of seeing Lieutenant Yar."

"Lieutenant Yar will be returned to you tonight at a banquet I have arranged in your honor."

"I would like to see her now."

"Bring Lieutenant Yar." he said to a sentry. "I find it odd, Captain, that a man of your experience has such difficulty in understanding ordinary politeness."

"Such as saying "please" when abducting someone?"

"The expression "please" is used only when requesting the person back."

"Yours is a different world."

"With clear and simple ways deeply rooted in our culture. If you are willing to ask for Lieutenant Yar's release tonight in front of all, honor will be satisfied."

"One can see the importance of "honor" here." Deanna said to Picard.

"Honor is everything." Lutan said.

Picard and Deanna exchanged looks.

"There will be gifts for each of you, to absolve the abduction." Hagon said.

Tasha was brought to the doorway between four guards, with every sign she would break free at the slightest opportunity. One of the guards limps, a leg bandaged. When Tasha saw Picard she calmed down.

"Lieutenant, have you been treated well?" Picard asked.

"Fine, Captain..." she started. "... but they're showing some signs of wear." she said indicating bandaged guard smiling.

"There isn't any need to be concerned, Captain. She's being well cared for." Yareena said.

Picard looked Tasha over, then turned to Lutan.

"My ship's company and I are certain of your gentle wisdom in that." Picard said.

Lutan hesitated then took another look at him.

"I thought for a moment I heard a threat implied." Lutan said. "But that would be foolishness." he said and shrugged.

"Something to be carefully avoided I agree." Picard said.

"The festivities for her return to you are in preparation. Shall we retire until then?"

Lutan gestured to the guards, who moved to take Tasha off, without resistance. Picard replied and considered what is ahead.

"Until tonight, Lutan."

Later that night under a canopy, a juggler performed at the canter place. Guests sat on floor mats or cushions. All carry hand-held, delicately carved ivory-like sticks which they tap together to signal applause or approval. Tables were low and food is plentiful. Establish Lutan and Yareena sitting on a slightly raised dais, with Hagon next to him on floor level, and Lutan's Supporters close around them. The juggler dropped something and suddenly stopped. He had committed an act of dishonor.

Picard and Deanna scanned the room, hoping to see Tasha. Then there was a sudden scream from the direction where the juggler had performed.

Then they whirled to look in that direction but their line of sight was quickly blocked by gift bearers who appeared, with Ligonian silks, works of precious metal, and fine large gems. Picard was troubled by what may have happened to the juggler but was distracted by the gift bearers making presentations. Then the room fell silent.

"We present you gifts!" Lutan said.

Tasha was escorted in to approving Ivory-tapping sounds from the Ligonians who faced Lutan. Tasha was seated next to Lutan and Yareena on an empty cushion. She smiled at Picard and Deanna. At full silence Lutan turned and fixed his gaze on Picard. The moment had arrived. Picard rose and faced Lutan with great dignity.

"Lutan, you have granted us hospitality and the safety of yourCenterplace. The gifts you give us are rare and precious. We thank you. In accordance with the customs of your ancestors, which I honor and respect, I am here in peace to ask for the return of Lieutenant Yar." he said.

The Guests chimed wildly now, nodding in enthusiastic approval. Yareena was especially proud and pleased. Lutan smiled and rose, moving slowly back.

"Well spoken. There are some among my equals in this gathering who were wary of my approaching the Federation. I am proud to have taken this first step towards a treaty - and proud we have something of great value to offer you - a priceless life-giving Vaccine." Lutan said. "The abduction I have done according to our custom, for all to see." he continued with great applause. "Your conduct in this matter has been beyond exemplary, Captain Picard -" he said and glanced at Tasha. "- but now that the moment has come, I find I cannot part wither."

A ripple of astonishment flew through the crowd in the room. Picard took a step forward. Tension.

"You speak of a code of honor... but what you are now saying is called under our customs... an act of war." he said.

"Correct! I am now beyond understanding!"

"This is not an act of war, but of love. I want Lieutenant Yar to become my First One."

There was general astonishment. Yareena was as shocked and outraged as Picard and Deanna. Hagon was also disturbed. Yareena jumped to her feet.

"I challenge your right of supersedence!" She said.

The Guests in the room were stunned.

Hagon looked at Yareena.

"No woman has challenged supercedence for over two-hundred years!"

"The right is mine - and I will have it!" Yareena said. "Natasha Yar - I challenge you! A struggle to the death!" she said to Tasha furiously.

Tasha and Deanna reacted and Picard jumped to his feet.

"NO! The challenge is unequivocally refused!" he said strongly and there was stunned silence then Lutan rose to his feet, eyes blazing.

"Then you shall have no treaty - no vaccine - and no Lieutenant Yar!" Lutan said.

"Ship's log, First Officer Rikerreporting. We have been informed of the challenge to Lieutenant Yar..." Jack said.

At the main bridge Jack toured the stations checking readouts, while continuing his log. A full crew was on station.

"... and are maintaining combat readiness round-the-clock. We are probing Lutan's compound deeply with our sensors now, still unnoticed." eh continued.

Tasha was at her quarters doing exercises, straightened up as Picard and Deanna entered. Deanna did nothing except listen intently. A Ligon Guard patrols.

"Captain. Deanna." Tasha said.

"Did you have any idea, Lieutenant, that Lutan would suddenly announce he wanted you for his First One? What do you know of this?" Picard said.

"Nothing, sir."

"But it was a thrill. Lutan is such... such a basic male image and having him say he wants you..." Deanna said as if to herself.

Tasha nodded.

"Yes, of course it made me feel good..." she said then became aware that Picard was watching this closely and she turned on Deanna. "Troi! I'm your friend and you tricked me!"

"Only so you'll think about it completely and clearly." she said.

"We're all being manipulated, Lieutenant, and most of all myself." Picard said to Tasha.

"How simple all this would be without the Prime Directive." Deanna said scrutinizing Picard.

He nodded; half-amused.

"That thought has passed through my mind, Counselor."

At the command position on the main bridge Jack was looking toward his panel communications. The turbolift doors opened and Beverly hurried onto the bridge.

"What's this message from Fourteen?" Jack asked.

Beverly hurried to indicate Jack's viewer.

"It's showing infection rates, percentage illness increases..." she said. "The plague on Styris IV has flared up out of control." she said then looked up.

Jack took another moment to study the information received.

"Oh, no!"

"They're estimating deaths in the millions, sir." Geordi said studying his own viewer.

Jack hit com control.

"Captain Picard, come in."

The lighting in Tasha's quarters were low, Deanna was trying to nap but with Tasha disturbing this.

"I know I could win. Not that I'd take her life, of course, but I'd be glad to embarrass her. The idea of accusing me..." Tasha said but being interrupted by Picard entering with guards still in b.g. Deanna was immediately alert at the captain's presence.

"The plague?" she said.

"If anything, worse than we heard." Picard said.

"Which means they desperately need the vaccine, sir. And I know I can win this challenge..." Tasha said.

"You do not have to prove anything here, Lieutenant." Picard said.

"But the vaccine is important in this case, sir...?" Deanna said.

"Counselor, I would consider you the last person to argue for Lieutenant Yar to accept that challenge."

"Betazoid blood is also practical, Captain." she said. "The odds are very good she'd defeat Lutan's wife easily and you would win all the bargaining points you need." she said indicating Tasha.

"The odds are...?" Picard said.

"As you have pointed out yourself, we are all at risk every day of every mission."

Picard gave her a searching look, glancing at Tasha.

"I'll want some explanations from Lutan." he said.

"But why not let him volunteer them, Captain? His needs for approval are immense. I'm sure if you found something you liked about him, he'd be anxious to agree with it." Deanna said.

Tasha laughed.

"Yes, he would indeed. He's almost crippled with needs, the poor handsome dear."

Picard considered this, then left.

Lutan and Hagon were still in the empty Banquet Hall, talking and finishing a drink. Picard entered.

"I should tell you I do admire the hospitality you offer here, Lutan. A pity you began by abducting my security officer." Picard said.

"I am in the grip of forces you do not understand." Lutan said.

Picard hesitated then nodded

"Some of it I do understand. She is a rather lovely female..."

"You surprise me, Captain. What do you know of needs and feelings?"

"Nothing." Picard said then pretended to hesitate then smiled. "Well, almost nothing in my position of ship's captain."

Hagon chuckled.

"Aha, I see."

Picard smiled now.

"But it puzzles me; if you feel that way about Tasha, why have you challenged her to a fight to the death?"

"Not I, Yareena! I am merely a spectator."

"But you are also a man of great importance and wealth."

"Great importance, perhaps..." Hagon said.

Lutan had tried to stop what Hagon said, but moved too slowly. Picard then chuckled.

"Aha, I see. Then you too understand the proper value of omen?" Picard said.

"We understand they are highly pleasant things... but after all, unimportant, except for the land they own." Lutan said.

"You're a truly clever person, Lutan. You have nothing to lose either way the challenge goes." Picard said as Lutan smiled.

"A code of honor, Captain, protects one like a magic cloak."

There was a long pause.

"I will order Lieutenant Yar to Fight." Picard said. "And may your cloak bring you all you deserve, Lutan." he said and rose.


Geordi was in his quarters standing alone in his room, his glasses on a table. Without his visor his eyes were dead grey. He held a glowing 2-inch blue cube in his hand which he moved up, down and across his face an inch or so away from the skin. He was shaving. There was a chime from his door.

"Come in." he said and Data entered, stopped short as he saw the razor Geordi was using.

"Why that razor, my friend? Why not the one I adjusted into perfect efficiency?" Data asked.

"Shaving is a human art form, Data. Technological perfection can shave too close."

"Puzzling. How can anything be too efficient?"

"Tens of thousands of things. Maybe hundreds."

Data was puzzled over it.

"We always go back to the human equation."

"Exactly. Have you kept working on it?"

"Constantly, my friend." Data said and nodded. "Particularly human humor. For example, a man goes to a storeto buy some kidneys. He says to the shopkeeper, "I'd like a pound of kiddillies, please." The shopkeeper says to him, "You mean kidneys, don't you?" The man says, I said kiddillies, diddle I?"

There was long silence.

"It's too old. And you didn't tell it very well."

"... How do you know when something's funny?"

"It's not explainable. You just do."

"Perhaps it is you, Geordi. Including the kiddillies, I've learned six hundred sixty-two jokes, and you haven't..."

Data stopped, realizing Geordi was laughing.

"Including the kiddillies!" Now that's funny." he said still chuckling.

"It was not meant as a joke! The tongue slipped!"

Geordi chuckled even more at this. He put away his razor, began to fit his visor in place.

"Crusher to Commander Data, Lieutenant La Forge. Report to the Transporter Room for away party duty." Jack said on com.

Both men moved out quickly.

Picard and Deanna were examining weapons exhibited in the room. Unusual looking pikes, daggers, spiked gloves, unusual looking blast guns, nets, scythes, all bizarre and unfamiliar types.

"First officer to captain. Ready with the away personnel." Jack said on com.

"Lock in on this location." Picard said touching insignia.

"Transporter locked in, sir." transporter chief said on com.

"Energize!" Picard said.

A short delay, then Data and Geordi beamed in. Data carried a large tricorder.

"You've both seen the message about the plague?" he continued.

Geordi nodded

"And how badly the vaccine is needed. Yes sir."

"We need to know as much as possible about Ligonian arms and armaments. Data, especially important will be an analysis of their combat capabilities. Geordi, concentrate on their cutting edges where applicable, durability, composition, weaknesses of material." Picard said.

"Aye, sir."

"From any particular point of view, sir?" Geordi asked.

"From the perspective of Lieutenant Yar's using them in combat with Lutan's wife." Deanna said.

Geordi was stunned; Data was curious.

"Are you..." he began again. "You, you're serious, I can see that."

"Most interesting." Data said. "Could this be human joke number six hundred sixty-three?" he said to Geordi.

"Negative, Data! It's a captain's order!"

"Which makes it important to know..." he said. "... which of these weapons are to be used." he indicated.

"That fact isn't known until the combat begins." Picard said.

Data and Geordi turned to the weapons to begin examining them. Picard turned toward the exit with Deanna, then stopped and turned back to Data.

"You're right, Data. It does sound like a joke. With the power of the Enterprise, we could overwhelm this place easily. Take what we want." He continued.

"I may not understand human humor, sir, but I am a Starfleet Academy graduate." Data said.

"Which means, of course..."

"... understanding the Prime Directive, sir."

"Which is, unfortunately, what this is about. By our standards, the customs here and code of honor are the same kind of pompous, strutting charades that endangered our own species a few centuries ago. We evolved out of it because no one else imposed their own..." he said then stopped and shook head ruefully. "Sorry, that became a speech." he said.

"You're the captain, sir. You're entitled..." Deanna said.

Picard smiled.

"I am not entitled to bore you with what you already know. Carry on!"

The others had returned his smile as he and Deanna left.

"Ship's log, Commander Jackson Crusher reporting. Stardate 41235.4." Jack said.

At the main bridge Jack walked past the rear readouts, taking a moment to study them.

"Continuing our appraisal of Ligonian technology. The Captain has made it clear..." he continued. "... he wants Lieutenant Yar beamed immediately to safety if her life should become endangered... and I fervently hope the rules of that contest make it possible."

"Crusher to Transporter Room. Do you have our people on the sensors yet?" he asked.

"Their general area, sir. Visual on screen now." Transportation chief said.

Jack pressed a button on a nearby console and looked.

The screen listed every name in the away party. Alongside each name triangulation coordinated appeared. They changed as those who moved change location.

"As you see, we're still doing some fine tuning." Transportation chief continued.

Tasha was alone in her quarters as Yareena entered.

"I agreed to this meeting, but I see no point to it. You have accepted the challenge; there is nothing further to say." Yareena said.

"I think you should know that there is no physical training anywhere that matches Starfleet, especially its security people." Tasha said.

"And you should know that even though these contests are rare, we have a tradition of making ourselves capable of them."

"Yareena, my acceptance had nothing to do with Lutan."

"It has everything to do with Lutan. Lutan wants you to be his First One."

"Impossible, Yareena. I am a career Starfleet officer..."

"How could you not love him? Every woman loves him!"

"Yareena, I fight for the vaccine... That's the truth."

"The truth is I will kill you if I can. And believe me, I can. There is nothing else to say."

"In my world it's a greater honor to refuse to …"

"You are on our world!" Yareena said inturupting then whirled and left.

Picard's quarters were similar to Tasha's, but less elegant and much smaller. Picard paced.

"Captain, I'm your counselor. You brought me with you to Ligon to be of help." Deanna said.

"Then help me, please. What is a way out of this?"

"With the vaccine?" she said and shook her head. "None. Not under the rules we believe in."

There was a knock. A Guard opened the door to admit Data and Geordi.

"The weapons in that room are surprisingly durable and flexible... and deadly." Geordi said.

"And light, as if they're made for women to use." Data said.

"Some of them still have traces of blood - and poison."

"Poison?" Picard said reacting.

"Alkaloid base. Deadly." Geordi said.

"But we found no indication it is invariably used, sir. Or ever, in contests like this." Data said.

"A theory, Data. What would be the best defense against weapons like these?" Picard said.

"Undiminished attack because of the possibility of poison, sir." Data said.

"What about those lengths of metal in the yard outside?"

"Uncertain, sir. However, joined together they would make a rectangle or square enclosing one hundred twenty-one square meters. If put end-to- end vertically, they would make a pole forty-four meters high, or two of twenty-two meters, or..."

"Thank you, Data."

"You are welcome, sir."

A knock on the door. Tasha was ushered in by the guard.

"She won't budge. She loves him - without reservation." Tasha said. "And she thinks I love him too." she said to them all.

"Most interesting. Do you?" Data asked.

"Of course I don't, Data! As Troi pointed out to me, I'm attracted to him but that is entirely different."

"How so?"

Picard was becoming amused at this.

"I'll agree it is puzzling, Data, but since it involves Tasha's very intimate and personal..." he said.

"It involves nothing I'm ashamed of!" Tasha said. "In fact, you may discover that the very worst move of your life was when you threw in with flesh and blood humans." she said off Data.

"But certainly the most Interesting." Data said nodding gravely.

"Interesting? Data, I grew up on a failed colony, completely lawless, mad, where people took what they wanted. This meant males for the reason they're bigger, stronger..." she said. "And that's why I chose Starfleet security, I guess." she said to Deanna.

Deanna nodded.

"For reasons you should be very proud of."

"Those were my early interests... strength, daring, dominant males... and that's why Lutan attracts me. To me, he's like a Federation Olympic Games hero. But do I want to become his so-called "First One," marry him? That would be nonsense!" she said to Data.

There was pause, then Picard drew himself up into a pose resembling Data.

"Most interesting." Picard said.

"Ah! You feel that also!" Data said turning and nodding.

Then he smiled from all present. Picard now turned to Tasha, very serious.

"And having laid all that out, Lieut..." he started then corrected himself. "Tasha... we come to a most serious question..."

"Crusher to captain." Jack said.

Picard touched his insignia.

"Go ahead. We're alone."

"We're fine tuned enough to see your hosts gathering in the open area outside with a number of them now headed for your location."

"Thank you, Jack." he said then turned to Tasha."I was about to ask if considering that background, your apprehension by Lutan, all of that... do you still feel ready to undergo this challenge? Do you judge your condition good?"

From the door a loud knock.

"I judge it excellent, sir." Tasha said.

Another knock, insistent. Picard nodded to Geordi who opened the door. It revealed Hagon with two guards who carried two lacquered boxes each. The four boxes were labeled one through four by ornate dot patterns. The boxes were placed on a low table.

"Your weapons, Lieutenant Yar. You may pick your size." Hagon said.

They left. Tasha went slowly to the boxes, and opened first one and then the others. She picked one glavin up and held it for the others to see. They looked at it with awe. It was a gauntlet-length oversized glove, the bulbous. On the inside of the wrist a down-curved claw projects. Out of the glove itself stick a profusion of slender eight-inch long needles, as if from a porcupine. A thin transparent shield covered them. Tasha removed the cover revealing the above details, but without any poison demarcation.

"Don't touch the spines! They're poisoned." Geordi said.

Tasha looked at the glavin carefully, hefted it, touched it, estimating it. Geordi came over and looked at it with her.

"If you're not careful you could kill yourself."

She looked at spines; shook her head.

"These I understand."

From outside, they heard a metallic clanging. They stopped, and went to the window.

Outside, in the center place, the sharpened lengths of steel had been vertically attached within a multi-level rectangle. A number of these poles had horizontal segments connecting them. Yareena, wearing workout clothing, was maneuvering quickly from level to level, carefully avoiding the sharpened spikes. She wore the glavin on her left hand only, and used the claw to give her leverage while swinging over and under the horizontal bars. Below her, eight metallic objects outline the boundary of the arena. Between each of these, a green light beam defined the outer limit of the rectangle. As a workman put the finishing touches on this apparatus, four additional green light beams suddenly appeared, emanating straight upward, from the four corners of the centermost section. To check them, he interrupted one of the beams with a stick of wood. It sizzled and began to burn.

They looked at one another.


"First Officer's log, supplemental. Captain Picard, faced with a critical need for a vaccine produced on this planet..." Jack said.

At the main bridge Jack left his command position, crossed toward the turbolift. A crewman was at Conn, rear stations were manned.

"... has permitted Lieutenant Natasha Yar to engage in a fight to the death. I have yet to understand his reasoning or his plan." he continued.

He was reaching the turbolift, when he discovered Wesley was standing half out of sight inside - off the bridge. He stopped; and looked at each other.

"Care to lend a hand sport?"

"Yes please!" Wesley said and bounded onto the Bridge as Jack entered by Turbolift.

'Let's hope Johnny doesn't want to kill me.' he thought.

Data beamed into the transporter room. When fully arrived he turned to the Transporter Chief who was monitoring his viewer...

"Was I seen leaving?" Data asked.

Transporter chief shook his head.

"They've got eyes only for the program." he said.

Then Jack entered, Data nodded at him. Then he included Transporter Chief.

"Captain Picard wanted no risk of our communications being overheard. You're to proceed now, as he indicated." Data said.

Beverly entered over the last of this. She carried a medical tricorder and a couple of instruments including a contact hypo. She indicated them to Jack.

"Captain's orders here, too." she said.

"Does the Captain understand what you and Geordi reported about those weapons? They're razor sharp, split-second lethal..." Jack said to Data.

Data nodded

"I am here to brief you on what he plans."

The Centerplace was alive with a gathering group of official spectators, who were seating themselves around Lutan and Hagon. Picard, Deanna, Geordi, followed by Tasha and a guard, enter shot. Tasha wore the glavin with its protective covering.

"Any last minute instructions, sir?" Tasha asked Picard.

Picard nodded.

"Stay alive. We'll hope to do the rest."

As Yareenan entered with a Female Aide. Louder ligonian rattling. A Guard motioned Yareena and Tasha into the combat area. A worker prepared to activate the light-beam boundary. When it was quiet, Hagon rose and addressed the gathering.

"I speak for Lutan. The rules are known; let combat continue until there is a victor. It will not be interrupted." Hagon said. "Proceed." he said while he looked at combatants

Again a rattling of sticks as Tasha and Yareena entered the structure at opposite sides. The worker activated the light-beam boundary. Then silence from the Spectators as Tasha and Yareena immediately began working their way through the structure.

Tasha went quickly for the center to defend from there, not sure exactly what to expect. Yareena, very sure of herself, climbed with agility. The glavin never got too near her body. The glavins clang as each of the women climbed.

Tasha was learning as she goes. She made her moves without flare, steadily and carefully feeling her way. At the moment, it looked as if she's no match for Yareena.

Yareena suddenly sped up, agily climbing higher than Tasha. Gracefully, she also circled to get behind her. Tasha turned barely quickly enough to defend herself. Stopping, darting away, and coming from unexpected angles, Yareena forced Tasha to change position. Tasha at first clambers horizontally, then, aware of what's happening, climbed higher to get away from her, but couldn't do it without turning her back.

Yareena jabbed out at her, managing to drive and corner her on the highest level of the arena. Again she jabbed with her glavin, just missing. There's a gasp from the audience. She inched closer, leaning out and continuing to jab.

Not at all as unconcerned as Lutan indicated to Picard.

Tasha folded her arms and dove beneath the horizontal pole, landing on her feet - but lost her balance, and fell within the innermost section.

Instantly, Yareena climbed toward her for the kill. As she raised her glavin to strike the final blow, her arm extended too far back, causing a metallic section of the glavin to brush against one of the brightly glowing vertical light beams. A shower of sparks and a reactive force so strong that it threw Yareena's arm forward with such speed that the glavin was hurled out of the arena and into the first row of spectators.

Lutan rose, shouting.

"Combatants, hold your positions!" he said and turned to a guard. "Return the weapon!"

Yareena and Tasha remained stationary as a smiling spectator, into whose lap the glavin has fallen, gingerly handed it to the guard. His smile quickly turned to a grimace of horror as he noticed a thin line of blood on his thigh. His face contorted as the poison instantly took effect. As the glavin was carefully returned to Yareena, there were wo sentries removing the spectator's body.

With Yareena re-armed, Tasha aggressively advanced toward her.

Hagon was very concerned now.

"Yareena! Careful!" he said.

Tasha moved rapidly to the outside, drawing Yareena up to follow her, then simulates losing her balance and fake-fell, flailing, toward the ground. She appeared to be caught on the lower rungs without being able to free herself. Yareena dropped deftly to her feet alongside her, stood over her and was about to shove the deadly spines of the glavin into her when Tasha kicked out with her foot, catching Yareena's leg. Yareena stumbled. Tasha got to her feet and hurled herself at Yareena, getting on top of her. Her claw grazed Yareena's shoulder, ripping her garment and causing blood to flow.

Yareena stared in horror at the thin trail of blood. She started slowly to rise up. The spectators gasp, waiting for Yareena to die.

Tasha suddenly threw herself bodily across Yareena and both of them began to shimmer - and then were beamed away.

The crowd rose to its feet in surprise, then anger and shouting. They began to throw their ivory-like sticks toward the arena, then at our Away Party which quickly moved to one side, standing close.

Security - and Beverly, Data, and Jack- were waiting as the supine bodies of Tasha and Yareena appeared on the transporter pads.

"Move!" Jack said.

Tasha rose as security people grabbed Yareena and very carefully removed her glavin. She appeared to be almost dead - perhaps completely so. Tasha removed her own. Beverly moved forward to administer a hypo to Yareena.

"We're too late; she's growing cold." Tasha said.

"Sorry that clashes with my instructions..." Beverly said.

The hypo administered, Beverly began monitoring Yareenaon the medical tricorder.

Yareena she indeed looked dead.

Horror stricken at what Tasha had done.

"On no, no..." she said.

At the centerplace Deanna, Geordi and Hagon were looking on. Still angry spectators in b.g.

Exactly what do you find unfair,

Lutan? They fought to the death;

you saw the final blow; you know

the effects of your poison..." Picard said.

But what of your Lieutenant Yar?

She is to become my First One now." Lutan said.

"I certainly won't stop her – if she cares to claim that honor."

Lutan looked closely at Picard, beginning to realize that Tasha may not want to be his First One. Hagon moved in.

"But remember, you now have all Yareena's lands and wealth, Lutan." he said.

"At least, all has not been lost." Lutan said with a wry smile at Hagon.

Then they heard the communicator sound, and Picard touched his insignia.

"Picard here."

This amazed Lutan and Hagon too - it was the first they've known of this communication system.

"Since you've fulfilled your agreement, Captain, can we now beam the vaccine aboard?" Jack asked.

"Ah, yes... of course." Lutan said.

"No problem, Jack. Send down someone from medical." Picard said.

"And to complete our business here, we are locked onto you." Jack said on com.

"Five to beam up. Energize."

This startled Lutan and Hagon. They were in the act of protesting as the transporter effect begins.

"First Officer's log, Stardate 41235.6. I am returning the conn to Captain Picard..."

Jack was still at Command Center of the main bridge.

"... as we begin loading the vaccine supply aboard. Shortly, we hope to signal "mission complete.""

During which Picard, Lutan, Hagon and Deanna entered from a turbolift. Jack saw them, rose, and indicates in the proper direction. Wesley made himself small in the bridge position he occupied.

"Welcome back, Captain, and you're wanted in the lounge." Jack said.

"This way, gentlemen." Picard said to his guard.

They moved on as indicated. Deanna remained on the bridge.

Picard and Lutan opened the lounge, revealing Picard with Lutan and Hagon who reacted in surprise at what they saw inside.

Tasha, Beverly... and Yareena, were looking very alive. On the table there was the fateful glavin, medical tricorder and instruments. Accepting what he saw reacted angrily.

"She is not dead! There was no death combat; you have violated our agreement. There will be no treaty, no vaccine...!" Lutan said.

"The challenge was carried out. She died, Lutan." Picard said.

"There was no challenge! She is alive."

Beverly picked up the glavin, moved to Lutan, holding it very close to him.

"I am a physician and saw her die. If you doubt this poison, why not test it on yourself?" Beverly said.

Lutan had flinched away from it. Picard moved in.

"Lutan, we can provide you with the medical records to prove her death and how Doctor Crusher brought her back." he said.

Yareena was enjoying this as she made eye contact with Tasha who nodded approvingly.

"And at the instant of death, Lutan, a mating agreement dissolves." Yareena said then moved toward Lutan.

"But this is witchcraft, Yareena. To discard a mate in that manner..." he said.

"... is less painful than the one you selected for me." she said and reached out and took the ornate red-stone necklace from his neck.

"No, Yareena..."

But he stood unresistingly as she turned with it, faced Hagon.

"Even as I battled, Hagon, I heard you calling out for me." Yareena said.

She raised the necklace. Hagon nodded.

"Be my First One, Yareena." he said.

She placed it around his neck.

"All my land, all my goods, all I have... is yours to rule."

A low sob from Tasha, drawing startled looks from Picard.

"That's so beautiful." she said. "And so sad for you. You've lost everything." She said to Lutan.

"I have my honor." he said.

And it was true that Lutan still had his head held proudly high. Tasha looked at him, then to Yareena.

"It's such a... a waste!"

"Do you want him?" Yareena asked.

Tasha was startled, looked to the Captain, then back.

"No, there would be... complications." she said.

"Then I will have you as my Number Two." Yareena said to Lutan. "Take your place accordingly." she indicated.

Lutan moved to stand slightly behind Hagon.

"As you see, Captain, you may excel in technology... but not in civilized behavior." Hago said.

Fully manned at the bridge. Picard entered, then sensed something awry. He looked around, puzzled at this. Then he looked toward the Ops station where Wesley had been hoping to pass unnoticed.

"What the...!" Picard said. "Ah yes, Wesley." he said.

"Wesley!" Jack said. "He'd been manning that station for me. I forgot." he said quickly to Picard.

Wesley had come up out of the seat, looking apprehensive as he stood somewhat at attention.

"Well!" Picard said. "Thank you again for manning one of our bridge stations. We'll see you get another chance."

"Yes sir!" Wesley said.

Again, those words were an elixir which sent Wesley happily on his way.

"What's the delay, Jack? Why aren't we warping out of here?" Picard asked.

"Set course for Styris IV, Warp three." Jack said.

"Course laid in for Styris IV, sir." Geordi said.

"Engage!"