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         Deanna sat restlessly in her chair, wishing she could be anywhere else, and wanting to be in sickbay with Will.  Knowing what Admiral Bryant had to say, and actually hearing it confirmed were two very separate things. 

 

         She listened helplessly as he officially ordered the permanent removal of Commander William Riker from active duty aboard the USS Enterprise, and unofficially ended his career in Starfleet.  She felt the anger rise in her throat.  It wasn't fair, and the fact that she knew their reasons as well, if not better than anyone else did little to ease that feeling.  Every part of her screamed that this was wrong.  Finally, She lost the battle.

 

         "Admiral, what does Starfleet intend to DO about what happened on Delaran five?" Her blunt question startled everyone in the room, including Admiral Bryant, who had barely finished speaking. 

 

         "Well, Counselor, of course provisions will be made to spare future tragedy, and investigations have already been conducted in the month following the accident.  As you know, we can find no definite cause for the false reading received by your ships computers.  We are all of course deeply sorry for Commander Riker's situation, but I'm afraid that is out of our hands."

 

         Deanna's dark eyes flashed dangerously at the Admiral's final remark.  She stood, her back to Captain Picard and the Admiral for a moment, before turning to face the two men.  "Admiral Bryant, the very best equipment in the possession of Starfleet, along with the best minds in the federation have consistently misinterpreted the atmosphere on Delaran five, resulting in the incapacitation and near death of an officer, I believe that qualifies as more than a few false readings."

 

         Admiral Steven Bryant kept his seat, but met her challenge with tightly controlled anger.  Controlled, that is, to everyone except Deanna, The admiral's bursts of emotion only serving to intensify her own fury.  "We have attempted to discover the cause of this situation as best we could.  At this point, we have exhausted all of our current resources in this matter, and simply cannot devote anything more to this issue.  We feel that it is in the best interests of the Federation to place our emphasis on containment of the phenomenon until such time as we are able to better analyze --"

 

         "And what if it isn't an isolated incident Admiral?" Deanna's angry rebuttal cut of Bryant's stream of bureaucratic rhetoric midstream.  What if there are more planets out there giving off "false readings" like these?" She placed her hands against the cool surface of the table in front of her and met the man's gaze with her own.  It was a gesture, she suddenly realized, that was characteristic of Riker.  She pushed the thought back and continued.  "How many people have to lose their career's, their lives...or worse, to be sentenced to untold pain and suffering for who knows how long, before you are willing to devote resources to finding the cause?"

 

         "Counselor," Picard tried to intervene in an attempt to keep the conversation for spiraling further out of control, but Bryant cut him off.

 

         "What would you have me do?" The man's angry phrase cut through the room, drowning out the Captain’s level voice completely. 

 

         The normally composed Counselor exploded under the combined force of fury in the room.  "I want you to tell me why the hell no one around here knows the difference between oxygen and POISON!"

 

         Now Bryant was on his feet as well, his anger flaring for the last time.  "This conversation is over --Commander." His voice rang with authority, but even he couldn't have anticipated Troi's response.

 

         Deanna's had slammed down on the table with explosive force.  "You're damn right it's over." Her final phrase was spoken with deathly quiet.

 

         She spun on her heel and left the room without waiting for a formal dismissal from the admiral.  It took a few moments for the occupants to register that she had left her badge and rank behind, much less consider when she had removed them.

 

         Her formal resignation appeared on Picard's desk less than a half an hour later.