part fourteen

chapter  29

The door chimed again, Solace stood in front of it just as she and Deanna practiced. “Who’s there?” She asked slowly and carefully.

“Commander LaForge.”

Solaced waited for Deanna’s direction before allowing the visitor to entrance. Deanna nodded her consent to allow the visitor in.

“Come in.” Solace stood back as the doors opened, waiting to see who this LaForge was.

“Hi there, is Counselor Troi in?” He directed his comments to her,

“Yesss.” The small girl led the way to the table where the Troi women were seated.

“Hi Geordi, I hope you don’t mind, Solace has taken on the responsibility of answering the door. She’s actually doing quite well.” Deanna’s arm around the child tighten slightly,

“No problem Counselor, Commander Riker requested a new sleeping compartment to be added on to your quarters. Things are getting pretty quiet in engineering, so I though it would be a good time to meet the young lady you have staying with you.” He looked at Solace and introduced himself to her. Although the counselor could sense the child’s fascination with Geordi’s Visor, Solace never asked or reached to touch it, nor did she react in fear of the strange mechanism.

 After exchanging pleasantries, he asked the counselor, “Where do you think you would want this addition? Since Doctor Keith transferred to a space station, the easiest place to reconstruct the modular unit would be along this wall. That way we could tap into his old quarters.” Deanna and Geordi walked back through the quarters. There weren’t a lot of options, if she chose to remain in these quarters. In the end Deanna had Geordi chose which would work out the best.

Lwaxana and Solace were deciding which outfit to wear, when Deanna returned. “We’re going to go for a walk to ten-forward to show off our new clothes…”

Whatever else Lwaxana had planned was interrupted by the Deanna’s comm. “Riker to Counselor Troi>”

“Yes Will, what is it?”  She sensed an urgency in his voice.

 “Counselor can you arrange to be in the Captain’s ready room in five minutes.”

Deanna looked at her mother, Lwaxana nodded, “On my way Commander.” She turned to Solace, “I guess you’ll have to go with out me, I’ll try to catch up with you later. Are you going to surprise me with the new outfit?” She picked her up for the eye to eye contact that she knew would occur. The empath wasn’t disappointed. Solace apparently found nothing amiss, giving her an affirmative answer on the surprise and a hug goodbye. Deanna kissed each little cheek before putting her down.

“Is that a common practice?” Lwaxana asked. She didn’t have to elaborate, Deanna felt her mother’s attention sharpen when Solace held her face to look into her eyes.

“Yes it is, why? Do you recognize it?”

“Yes, that with the other traits add up to an interesting possibility. We can talk when you’re done. It sounds as though you and William have something to work out, so you had better not be late.”

She studied her mother’s face. “Thanks for being here Mother.” She kissed her cheek too, before going. Solace walked her to the door. “I’ll see you in a little while, okay?”

The child nodded. Deanna smiled down at her the walked out of her door to find two security people waiting for her.

“Counselor, we are to escort you to the captains ready room.”

Will stopped pacing for a moment to check to make the counselor had left her quarters, patience was never a point he excelled in, not when it concerned a particular crew member, especially not now. He had paced the room to the extent he knew how many steps it would take to cross from one side to the other, he was becoming more and more anxious with each passing minute. The entry chime sounded at last, “Come.”  He barked the order much more harshly than he intended. He stopped in front of the door waiting.

“Will, you wanted to see me.” She paused almost reeling from the intensity of his emotions. “What is it?”

 He gently pulled her in, allowing the doors to close behind her. As the doors closed, he wrapped his physical being around her pressing kisses on her lips, he continued to hold her as he spoke, “We have a problem. I’ve notified Captain Picard, he’s in the middle of doing some negotiating on Abeathdor’s behalf, he is returning as soon as possible.”

“Will, what is it?” Her dark eyes filled with apprehension as she softly repeated her question, sensing his reluctance to explain to her the circumstances that had brought her here, and caused the anxiety that she sensed in Will. She would not allow herself to use her newly found skills and search his mind for the answer. She would wait for him to tell her, now that she had gotten more comfortable with the telepathic skills she had also learned to override them.

“Somehow Gringbald is out of the stasis pod. I haven’t let the force field down, I think we are not aware of all he is capable of, and if there is a chance he is still in that holding cell, I’m not going to give him an easy way out.” He tilted her chin to see into her eyes, “You, are not to be alone. You are going to stay here with me until the Captain returns, then we’ll sort out the security problems.”

“Will, I don’t think he’ll come for me directly. It would be Solace or you he would use.”

He could see the concern in her eyes and hear it in her voice; it was all he needed. “Riker to LaForge.”

“LaForge here. What is it Commander?”

“Are you still in Counselor Troi’s quarters?”

“Yes sir, though she has left.”

“Yes, she’s with me Geordi. Is Lwaxana and the child still there?”

“Yes sir, they are.”

“I need you to stay there with them until I authorize differently with a security code. Geordi, if you notice anything peculiar take security measures immediately.”


Will looked at Deanna noticing for the first time the agitated plucking of her hands at her sides. “This may easily be for nothing. Gringbald maybe in his detention cell. I’m not taking any chances. The captain and the others will soon be here.”

“I’m not afraid for myself, he has said he would know the next time to use the child.” She eyes pierced his, or you. Lagi was right about not showing whom you care about. He’ll use one of you to get to me.”

His communicator sounded, “Commander, Captain Picard and the away team are about to be beamed up.”

“Acknowledged. Riker out.”

He stood watching her, the pulled her to him, “I feel I need to apologize to you for this morning. I should have sent you and Solace to Betazed right away.” They stayed close, “Listen, Gringbald doesn’t know I’m alive. Right? So we are one up on him.” When she didn’t answer he guessed part of her concern, “He couldn’t get rid of me before and I’m sure as hell not rolling over now. Deanna, he’s in our element now, we will have control. Stop worrying, we have the upper hand, it is not at all like before.” He held her tighter trying to convey a sense of security to her through his embrace. They stayed close until the entry chime sounded. Will asked for the identity of the caller before releasing the security lock.

Captain Picard entered his ready room, followed by Doctor Crusher, Data and Worf. Commander Riker quickly filled them in on the situation. The captain wasted no time in organizing his people and attempting to gain control of things. Worf was to escort the doctor and counselor back to the counselor’s quarters and to remain there until the situation was resolved. Geordi would join Riker and Data at the holding cell where they would begin a thorough investigation into Gringbald’s location and capture.

Starfleet was notified of the problem, the captain asked for immediate transportation for the shape shifter to a nearby starbase with adequate means to keep him detained, thereby allowing the Enterprise to finish it’s responsibilities on Prakal.

Worf escorted the two women back to the counselor’s quarters, he gave the security code that allowed Geordi to release the door. Worf and he exchanged several words before Geordi left. Deanna knew her mother had been grilling Geordi for information, by the why he made his fast escape from them. Solace was very pleased to have her back, but then so was Lwaxana, now she would get those answers, while she had her daughter as a fellow detainee.

Worf left to stand watch with the other two security people outside in the corridor. He had little time for Mrs. Troi’s mind reading antics and less for “Mr. Woof”, as she insisted upon calling him.

“What does this Gringthing want with you? Deanna, you left a lot of details out of the story. I think the time has now come that warrants some forth-coming information. No more procrastinating.”

Beverly was trying to think of some place of refuge to take Solace when Lwaxana suggested the child show the doctor her new room. Together they escaped into the new addition, where they began putting away the new toys and clothing, allowing time for Deanna and her mother to work something things out. Most of the detailed information was communicated non-verbally to prevent Solace from overhearing any of it. Deanna secretly wondered if the child didn’t already know a lot of the details, she had become so tuned into Deanna’s feelings that it was becoming harder and harder to shield her from things Deanna felt best if left unknown to her.

It took relatively little time to complete the information Mrs. Troi was lacking. In the end it was she who was in tears and her daughter that was trying to comfort her. “If this is going to be your family, why not leave Starfleet and take care of Solace. Will can come back on leave or get stationed on Betazed. He was there before, I’m certain a word in the right ears could open up a very prestigious position for him. It would be sooo nice to have you and grandchildren near me before I did. It would make me soo happy, Little One.”

“Mother, I can have a family and still do my job here. Nothing is written in stone. Will and I…well there are still somethings that need worked out.”

“Deanna, if you love him and he loves you, he’ll do what’s best for you.”

“But Mother, that may not be what’s best for you.” She mirrored her mother’s icy glare.

That was the first thing Beverly heard as she and Solace returned to the sitting room. Solace took Deanna’s hand wanting her to see her room; she gently pulled until the counselor was following her back to the new room.

“My room.” Solace proudly showed the room off.

“It’s very nice, are you happy with it?” Deanna sat on the child’s bed that Geordi had replicated and beamed into the room.

The child sat beside her, frowning a little, then she smiled as though coming to a decision. “Yess.”

Deanna pulled her onto her lap and put a hand on each side of the child’s face imitating her by looking long into the deep blue eyes. “Where’s Will?”

“He has some work to do with the captain. We’ll know when he’s done. Okay?  Do you miss him when he’s not here?”

Solace nodded, then pointed to Deanna, “Miss him?”

“Yes I miss him too. We’ll see him later, but for right now, let’s see what Doctor Beverly and -“ She choked a little, “Aunt Lwaxana are up to.” Solace chuckled.

They went back to find Beverly and Mrs. Troi were sitting at the table with tea. “The doctor and I were discussing Doctor Dinal and some of the fabulous results he has been able to achieve with his research into telepathy and empathy. I think that both you and Solace should be seen. I have contacted him and he would be delighted to see you both. I’ve met him at several social functions, he is quite charming for a young single man.” Lwaxana now turned her full attention on her daughter, bestowing her with such a patronizing smile that Beverly swallowed her tea wrong and went into a spasm of coughing.

Deanna glared back at her, now this was more like what she had come to expect from her mother. Solace was patting Beverly on the back repeatedly asking, “Okay now, okay now?” The counselor looked at the scene before her wondering if she had somehow just stepped into an alternate universe.

Once Beverly regained control of her coughing and had wiped her eyes, she asked Solace if she would like to show Mrs. Troi where all her pretty new clothes and toys were. Solace nodded and held her hand out to Lwaxana to take her back for the now practiced tour. After they had gone, Deanna looked at Beverly, “What is it?”

“Deanna, you may not like what I’m about to say, but as your friend and physician I feel compelled to say it. I think Solace should definitely been seen by an expert. She is so tuned into you and your emotions that sometimes it’s almost like she is apart of you. That may be why her own personality at times seems surpressed. What do you sense about her feelings toward you? Other than the obvious, she loves you and Will, you are her world.”

“I make her feel safe, secure, that’s not so unusual Beverly. It is amazing that with all she’s been through she is as affectionate as she is, don’t you think?” But then it’s almost like she is so love starved …I have begun to feel that this Doctor Dinal may not be such a bad idea.”

“I think you too may benefit from a visit to him. Possibly explore the relationship between you two and the enhanced skills you have gained. I would like to hear his opinion on both.” Beverly noticed the counselor’s frown, expecting a rebuff she was surprised at Deanna’s next words.

“I’ve been considering that a visit may be needed for all the reasons you’ve just named. The problem is when” I also have an obligation to Will, we need some time alone. I guess we’ll just have to make opportunities.” Deanna shook her head not knowing exactly what she needed most, the peaceful routine of life again, or a long vacation.

Chapter 30

Will suddenly came through the doors into her quarters. Deanna and Beverly knew by his face that something was wrong. “ Deanna can I see you a minute. Beverly, Data requires your assistance with some new information he’s attempting to decipher. Would you mind meeting him in sick bay, before you go could you relay to Mrs. Troi that Guinan is on her way for a visit.”

“Certainly.”  Beverly really wanted to know what was going on, but knew from Will’s tone and look she wasn’t going to get anywhere with him.

They started down the corridor, Will held on to her arm and steered her to the door to his quarters. Her eyes quizzed him though she said nothing. He explained, “We need somewhere to talk that we won’t be interrupted or overheard by little or big ears!”

“This has to do with Gringbald, doesn’t it? What happened?” They stopped inside the door where he held her shoulders, looking down into her eyes.

“He was in the detention cell, but his form was breaking down. Gringbald says he cannot exist in such a manner as captivity. He broke out of stasis - how? We are still working on that. We are dealing with a life form we know little about. What we have learned, we learned from him. Data is working on some information that was recorded during his break-out.”

“Has his life signs changed since he’s out of stasis?”

“Yes, but he’s a shape shifter by nature and a symbiotic being. What is natural to him? We have only his word to go on. I’m not sure we should rely on his word for anything.”

“My experience with him has been that he doesn’t openly lie-while he will deceive you by misrepresenting the facts, he’ll maneuver the situation, he’ll play games with your feelings, but he hasn’t openly lied to me, yet.”

“I hope that wasn’t intended on making me feel better.” Will’s narrowed eyes met hers.

“What is it, Will?”

He continued to look at her through the narrowed eyes. “He asked to be allowed to speak with you. He gave his word that no harm would come to you.” He guided her to him, her head against his chest, where he could hold her protectively.

She understood the gesture and turned her head to kiss his neck. She could feel him relax, until she asked, “When?”

“Now. In about four hours the transportation the Captain has asked for should arrive to ferry Gringbald tot he nearest space station with a facility to hold him.”

“What does the captain think about a visit to Gringbald?”

“He left the decision up to you. If you decide to see him, you are not to be alone, nor are you to go inside the force field.” His voice was tight with tension.

“And you, how do you feel about it?”

“I know you’ll do what you think is needed. Sometimes I wish you didn’t feel such a strong sense of duty about these kinds of things. You never get those wishy/washy on the fence feelings do you?” He held her to him for a little longer, “I guess that’s one of the qualities about you I love. Since I know what your decision is, let’s go get it over with.”  He moved a step from her, but continued to hold her with his eyes, wishing he could have made the decision for her, or failing that requested she not go to the captain. Now standing next to her he put his arm around her as they left his quarters. As they approached the detention area Will stopped to inform the captain of her decision and their location.

“I’d like you to wait there for Data and Worf, as an added precaution. Data is to fill you in once he arrives. Number One, keep me informed of any new developments.” Captain Picard too was uneasy with the way things had developed, but to give up an opportunity to learn more about this life form would be unfortunate. He wanted every precaution necessary take to safeguard his people. They may learn some needed information about the planet or the events that led to the need for their intervention into it’s affairs through this meeting, but no information was worth one of their lives.

Worf and Data arrived shortly after the captain spoke with Will. Gringbald was to be transported from the detention area directly aboard the Starfleet carrier when the time came for him to leave the Enterprise. This would take place after Deanna and Gringbald had their talk.

The four entered the detention area. It was not hard to find the cell holding Gringbald. There were security people at the force field and one at the console monitoring his movements. Upon their approach, Deanna noted that he had chosen the form of the man Gringbald once more.

He watched them arrive, as they neared, he stood and moved as close to the force field as he could without feeling it’s effects. “I knew you would come. I see you have brought friends. I believe I know them all. I gravely misjudged you Commander. I suppose I should apologize for that. I really didn’t expect you to live. But then, I believe that your living had more to do with our counselor here than your own abilities. Am I not correct?”

Will would give him no satisfaction, his patience was worn thin, “What is it you want Gringbald? We owe you no courtesy, so you had better take advantage of this now!”

“As you wish.” He moved to the side nearer to where Deanna stood. “Counselor, is it possible to talk to you without the ears of so many pinned to your sleeve? You see I am in need of your vocational skills, Counselor.”

Deanna looked at Will, “Could you stand back at the desk for a few minutes. You would still be close, if I should need you. Please.”

Will frowned, and gave Gringbald a fierce look, before going back to stand with the ensign at the console. Data and Worf followed him each steeling a glance back at the counselor. Worf could be heard muttering a low growling type sound.

“Okay, how is it you have need of my vocational skills?” She was watching him closely for any sign that may forewarn her of his intentions.

He whispered, “I cannot live in confined spaces. Do you believe me when I tell you that it would be far easier to die then to even consider such a future?”

“Do you want counseled on the ethical stand of suicide?” Her voice may have sounded as though the subject and the being asking of it were of no consequence to her. However, her body language spoke differently to those you knew the counselor well.

Will stood back at the console watching and straining his ears to learn anything, He saw her straighten her back, shift her shoulders, then cross and uncross her arms; he knew what ever was being discussed was going to be trouble. With one look at Worf and a glance back at the counselor the commander was able to signal his wishes, Worf knew what was expected and moved closer to the cell.

Gringbald would have touched her if could have done so through the force field. He knew he could keep her off balance by his physical presence, then control her by his conversation. “No my dear, I want your help in committing that deed.”

“Why would you think I would even consider helping you?” The counselor was astonished. Will and Worf both edged their way closer at the sound of her voice. The wariness showing in Wills eyes moved Worf even nearer to the counselor.

“Because my dear, I have a bargaining chip you are unaware of, and you need this little piece of knowledge, my dear. I can enlighten you as no other. It will change your life and the lives of those you hold so close to your heart.” He caught her quick glimpse back to Will. “Oh, by all means talk it over with him. It may well change your relationship quite profoundly.”

Deanna stepped back a couple of spaces, keeping her eyes on Gringbald, before turning and moving quickly to Will’s side. “What going on? What does he want?” Will waited for her answer.

She took a few moments to catch her breath and try to reason out the request and the manner in which it was delivered. Deanna considered that Gringbald wanted her to prove herself without going for the commander’s advice, perhaps thereby playing into his hands… “He has information he wants to barter with.” She gratefully gave up the information, hoping that in some small way she had thwarted him in using her.

“He can have no information grand enough to earn him his freedom…”

Deanna placed a hand on his arm stopping him, “It’s not his freedom he’s willing to bargain for….it’s his death.”

“What?!” Will looked back to the holding cell, Gringbald was watching and waiting, he had absolutely no expression on his face, as though he was waiting with no expectations.

“He says he cannot exist in confined spaces.”

Will moved over to Gringbald, “What kind of information could you possibly have that would force us to consider such a step?”

Gringbald smiled, it was a diabolical smile, and a smile that Will felt had been practiced to give an impression of total evil. He had begun to wish he hadn’t asked he had the gut feeling this was information he didn’t want to know. Will could feel that Deanna had now moved to his side. He fought the impulse to send her back to Solace and her mother, because somehow he knew this would center around her. Why else would Gringbald have wanted her here.

“I cannot give an open answer without more information to take to the captain. You must know that it would be his decision to make.”

“Yes, yes, I keep forgetting the pecking order of your society. How incompetent you all must be to be only capable of doing another’s whim, but reap none of the rewards or take credit for the labor of the performance. I am not asking for a precious Starfleet pardon! I am asking for my death - be it accidental in appearance or design or outright - I want it before the transfer. You have very little time to make the decision or have it made for you, Commander.”

Will took Deanna’s arm leading her back to the console, he tapped his communicator, “Riker to Captain Picard.”

“Go ahead Number One.”

“Captain, we have a situation down here that requires your attention.”

“I’m on the way Commander.”

Gringbald cocked his head and looked at Riker, “I believe you may have changed my mind for me, Commander, I will talk only to the counselor. You understand, I believe she alone will listen to me.” He looked at Deanna for what seemed to her, along time, looking her in the eye, before turning to walk to the back of the cell, where he sat facing away from all of them.

Doctor Crusher’s voice suddenly broke the silence, “Crusher to Counselor Troi. Deanna we have an emergency.”

“Yes Beverly, what is it?”

“Can you come immediately to sickbay, it’s Solace.”

“What has happened?” Deanna was beginning to feel a panic like a blow to the stomach.

“She appears to be having some kind of seizure, she’s screaming for you.” In the background they could hear the distant wailing of the child. Deanna closed her eyes and reached out trying to sense the child. She was hit immediately with tremendous fear. She tried to cut through the emotion to calm the child, but Solace had almost encased herself in terror. Deanna looked at Will.

“You couldn’t reach her?” Will knew by the anxiety in her face she hadn’t. He gave directions without taking his eyes from the counselor. “Worf escort the counselor to sickbay.”

“You know, I could save you the worry and the trip, if you’d care to meet me half way.” It was Gringbald’s words, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone.

“You are responsible for this? You can harm a child from in there?” Deanna had stormed to the front of the force field facing Gringbald, her fists clenched at her sides.

Will followed her, “If you’re responsible for this, prove it. Stop whatever you’re doing to her now!”

Gringbald smiled like a man with the universe in the palm of his hand. “Talk now to the good doctor.”

“Troi to Doctor Crusher. Beverly, what’s happening?”

“Deanna, I’m not sure. Solace has passed out. It appears to be a normal sleep. I’ll continue to monitor until you can get here.”

Deanna tapped her communicator, terminating the link; she turned to glare past the force field into the cell at Gringbald.

“The counselor here is beginning to think death is exactly what I deserve. Don’t you my dear? So, why not in the best interest of all do it?”

“Because we do not take death as lightly as you do.” Deanna knew how manipulative he was, for someone with no emotions he was very skilled at using others’ emotions to get his own purposes accomplished.

Captain Picard entered the detention area. “Commander Riker, Counselor Troi, may I see you?”

He exited the area going back into the corridor outside, awaiting his officer’s presence. They wasted little time in joining him there. “What exactly do we have here? Beverly has informed me that the counselor is needed in sickbay. Now, I understand the situation there has been somewhat stabilized. Is this a coincidence, or is there a connection between Gringbald and the episode in sickbay?”

Riker answered, “There apparently is a connection, at least Gringbald wants us to believe there is. We are hoping to get to that. However, the price to be paid is that Gringbald wants his death in exchange for information.”

“He wants us to kill him?” Picard rubbed his head; “I don’t know why that should come as a surprise. This whole thing has been a bit melodramatic from the beginning. Come on, let’s see if we can get to the bottom of it.” Picard was about to enter into the detention area when Will stopped him.

“Captain, there is one other thing… He wants to deal only with the counselor.”

“Let him tell me what it is he wants. Counselor, are you prepared, if that is the only way he’ll communicate? If he is using the child to bait you, can you remain objective?”

“I think so.” She hoped she sounded more unaffected than she felt.

“Good.” The captain looked from one to the other, then turned to go in to face Gringbald.

They returned to stand in front of Gringbald’s cell. The captain spoke first. “I want to hear your request. Exactly what is it you want from us?”

“Do you have so little confidence in your people, that you do not believe them? I am sure it was repeated to you correctly. I am not in the habit of begging so let’s get it over with quickly, shall we? My bargain is this: for the privilege of death I am willing to come forth with information that is being sought by your people. I cannot give more without giving it all. What I ask in return is quite simple. Kill me. You see, I cannot exist in captivity, and you cannot nor will you set me free.” He paused letting his words penetrate, before adding, “Anything more I will communicate only through the counselor.” He again left the front of this cell to go to the furthest side where he sat with his back to them.

The captain moved away, signally his people to follow him. When they had moved a distance from the cell he began, “Counselor, talk with him, find out what you can. Be on the alert for an angle that we can use. In the mean time I’m going to contact Starfleet. Let me know of any new development. Do not allow yourselves to be provoked into anything. I’ll be in my ready room. I’ll stop at sick bay and see how things stand. Perhaps Doctor Crusher may have some insights we could use.” He held the counselor’s arm briefly, “Be careful, don’t take any risks without consulting Commander Riker or myself.”


“Commander, a word please.” They talked quietly as they watched the counselor talk with Gringbald. “Will, I don’t like the turn this is taking, pull the plug on this at your first inclination of trouble. I‘ll be in sickbay; I’ll do what I can there. Mrs. Troi is there, perhaps she may be of help in understanding this.” He paused, glanced back at the cell, “Contact me with any new development, but don’t wait to handle a problem.” Will shook his head but continued watching Deanna and the prisoner.

The counselor walked back to stand in front of Gringbald, “Okay, why me? Talk to me, Gringbald, why me?”

“My dear Counselor Troi, I’ve wanted you since your first arrival at the palace. You could have been my queen. What’s more, you would have been happy. You would have never questioned my loyalty. This may surprise you, but I know you better than you know yourself, and what it is that makes you happy.” He watched her closely. If only he could have had more time alone with her down on Prakal, he knew he would have convinced her. She would have become a willing partner in his plans.

Gringbald decided to try a different avenue, “Listen, my dear, if you allow a transporter accident to occur, I’ll give you that information you desire so badly. You see, I will die. Whether it is here with your aide ore elsewhere by some other contrived means, I will die. I would like to be with you, with your help. I wanted you to spend your life with me. I wanted to make you happy.”

“Enough! You have no idea what the concepts of love or happiness means. Don’t you think that by now, I know when you’re attempting to manipulate me. Communicate with me without the manipulation; just tell me what it is that brought you to this end. What is it that you feel we need to know?” Deanna knew he was trying to play her, using his words to precipitate a course in his own behalf.

They were quietly watching each other when they heard the ship’s communication system notify them of the transferring vessel’s near arrival. Deanna tried again to find out what he had to do with Solace. “How were you able to affect the child like that? Why would you harm her, she has nothing to do with you’re being here?”

“Dear Deanna, you know the price you need to pay for that information. What do you say?  Will you help me?” His voice had become a conspirator’s whisper, “Deanna, let me die, or I will take the secret to my death. I will die, you will simply have missed your opportunity to have gained the desired information.”

“I told you before, I have never killed anyone, nor could I kill now, not even you! I could not be responsible for someone’s death.” She had paled; surprising herself that even his death would weigh heavily on her conscious.

“Counselor, I believe you would be touched by my demise. I have never met a species that would not kill if the right circumstances presented themselves. I have always said you were capable of so much more than even you know. Let’s say I give you the information and leave the burden of the repayment with you. You will do what is right, am I correct?”

She knew he was still conniving to control her. The game was getting old fast.  “I will do as my conscious dictates. There is every chance it will not be what you would want. Tell me about Solace, why were you able to influence her from here. That is the bartering chip, isn’t it?”

“My dear Counselor, you are so perceptive. You stand on the threshold of understanding and yet you can’t quite get your head out of the sand.” He watched her face, she knows he thought, she knows and is afraid of the truth. He continued, “Here is a clue for you: My plans for you began when I first saw you. It was the way you watched and interacted with people that made me determined to have you. When you demanded the child, ah that was the deciding factor. That and when you resolved to stay behind to allow the other’s to leave. You would give so much for a child you knew relatively nothing about…Well, enough said. I have every confidence in you, my dear Deanna, that you can piece this together. All you need is a little more information to confirm your suspicions. Let’s not waste time, or shall I be taken away and you will never know whether your fears are truths.”

Will walked over to where the two stood, separated now only by the modified force field keeping Gringbald within the cell. “Time is running our, Gringbald. If you have something to say, do it now!” Deanna caught his eye and walked back to the console. Will followed her.

“It has something to do with Solace. I’m almost certain of it. I’m afraid of where it’s leading.”

He looked at her, and softly asked, “Where do you thing it will lead to?” He moved closer, to watch the emotions play across her face.

“It may be better not to know. He claims it will change our relationship too.”

“Deanna, I have never known you to back away from the truth, no matter what the consequences were. Gringbald cannot influence my feelings for you.”

She looked into his blue eyes and wished with all her heart that she could believe that. She smiled and returned tot he cell to face the being. “They are ready to take you out for transportation. If you have anything to say, say it now.”

“My dear, you mean you intend to rush through this?” He mockingly looked hurt.

Will had come to stand immediately in front of Gringbald, placing Deanna behind him. “Your time has about run out. If you have anything to say, say it now!”

“Fine have our people escort me to the ship. Let’s get it done with.” He looked at Deanna, “I am disappointed in you my dear.”

Worf, Data and two security people came forward to keep Gringbald within the cell as the modified force field was removed to allow his transportation to the other ship. Two of the security detail would be transporting with him. The force field was disengaged, Worf and Data each had a phaser pointed at the shape shifter but never had time to do much of anything before Gringbald began to glow, then quickly resumed the form he had previously shown to Deanna as his own natural form. He began circling her, making wide rotations around the empath. Will, who had been only a few steps away quickly move to embrace her as tightly as he could, he would not allow Gringbald to use her as a host or a shield. He would not lose her now.

The shape shifter parasite could not meld into two people, even though they now stood as one. Worf watched as the glowing alien gave way from the two, he aimed his phaser and fired. Gringbald fell to the ground like a flaming arrow, then slowly took the shape of the humanoid Gringbald. He lay very still; Data took a tricorder from the console to check the alien’s condition.

Will continued to hold Deanna close to him while waiting for Data’s findings. “His life signs appear to show he is dying.”

to be continued

click here for part fifteen