Part Five

Chapter 16b

A few minutes had passed Deanna sensed that Lagi was ready to move on. She gently squeezed her hand, “Lagi, how did you come to be at the palace banquet serving us?” Surely Gringbald knows you are not a loyal supporter?”

Lagi laughed, “I am worse than wastepeople to him. My heritage is that of one of the royal families. I am so branded.” She held out her marked hands. “These skin etchings are for everyone to know that I am watched as an enemy of Gringbald. He enjoys having those of us who are still alive serve him and his guests. You see, as long as we make our appearance and allow him to track us, he feels we are no threat to him. I have ways into and out of Gendla that he knows nothing of. I had planned that banquet to be my last visit to both. Lady, when I waited on your people, I knew then you were different. If anyone could stop this it would be you people. I watched our reactions to all. I saw the disgust you viewed these men with. You saw them as barbarians. They are that, but don’t be fooled; there is more to Gringbald then anyone knows. I have seen enough, he is more than he appears. He can appear in many men. He wants you to see him as a stupid bully. When next you meet, he could be a wise gentleman, until he you let your guard down, then you are lost. He has won.”

She knew the woman to be speaking the truth as she knew it. Again Deanna felt that prickle up the back of her neck, and a pang in her stomach. “Lagi, what are you saying, Gringbald is some sort of shape-shifter? What is he-he’s not of this planet?” Here maybe the confirmation of what they had believed all along that Gringbald was the outside influence.

“Lady, I know he is not one of our people. When and from where he comes, I don’t know. He is here….”

Deanna stopped her by holding a hand up, “Please wait, come back in with me. Would you explain this to the others?”

Lagi solemnly nodded that she would. Deanna stood, then helped Lagi to her feet. They entered the large kitchen area where the others were still gathered around the table. Will looked up as they approached, instinctively knowing Deanna’s presence.

He looked into her eyes then asked, “What is it Deanna?”

“Lagi has some information I think we need to be aware of Will. This is going to change the picture considerably.” She looked at the older woman, then asked, “Lagi, please tell them what you’ve told me. Start with the banquet and how you came to be there, then tell them of Gringbald. Please.” Deanna watched to see how the woman was handling the emotional strain. She appeared strengthened by the her hardships it seemed that they had lent her a courageous heart to draw from now, now that the time had come to set matters right.

When Lagi began to speak the room quieted. Deanna watched for the effect the new information would have on her teammates. She sensed their apprehension. Beverly’s detailed mind making connections with her medical knowledge. Will’s mind searching for chinks in chain, any weakness in Gringbald’s world; he was continually hunting for the one word or piece of knowledge that would set up the new game plan. Data stood watching the woman speak; he would then scan the crowd around the table studying their reactions. Deanna found him studying her as well. She sensed that this information was also new to many of the room’s other occupants. The young people looked at Lagi with renewed admiration, the older ones with respect.

Conversation at the end of Lagi’s revelations began only after a brief silence. Will looked thoughtfully at her, “Thank you, you’ve been very helpful, more than you could possibly know. Lagi, You’ve waited until now to tell us, and you’ve risked your privacy and possibly your own safety. Why now?”

Lagi looked over to Deanna, “I realized when speaking to Lady, your wife, that I have come to realize that I believe in my heart, if you do not succeed in getting Abeathdor to the throne, we are lost. There would be no one else, if Gringbald kills Abeathdor, as I suspect he will eventually, there are no royal family members with a line to the throne left. We must all do what we can for own sake and that of the Queen and for Solace.”

Will nodded, placing his hand on her shoulder, “Lagi, we’ll do the best we can.” He looked at Deanna, “Would you know Gringbald in another form, would you sense the same mind set as earlier?”

“Will, I’m not sure what I sensed from him before. Zylon, yes, him, I’d know. Gringbald was odd, I’m not sure how to explain it. I could sense his presence but…he may have other capabilities that I don’t know. I’m sure what to expect from him. How much does he disguise his true identity, how much does he hide behind his machinations?”

Will studied her for a few moments before moving on. “Lagi, you know of other ways into Gendla, ways through which we could gain access into the palace, the towers and the research center?” Will’s mind was fitting into place all the information he had available. He already had a plan in mind.

“I know of many ways in and out of most of the central buildings in Gendla all that you ask for, however the passage into the prison towers is very dangerous. The tunnel’s entrance into the prison is outside and very difficult to follow.

“Excellent Lagi, this is most helpful. We need details, can you show us on the map where these entrances outside are.” Will’s eyes gleamed with renewed excitement.

The planning went on until dark. The plans having been made would give the away team some time for sleep. It was decided they would leave for Gendla before dawn. Lepton would accompany them as their guide. Lagi also volunteered, but due to her recent injuries Will under Beverly’s advice declined her offer, stating needed to keep things going at Fallscity.

They entered into their respective sleeping chambers to try to get as much rest as possible. The rain continued at a steady rate. Deanna and Will entered their room, she to the sleeping bag on the mattress, Will turned down the light then stood looking out the window. Deanna had decided to wear the jumpsuit from Lagi to bed. She laid out the clothes they had washed in the stream the night before, then slid into the sleeping bag. She watched Will staring out of the window, trying to sense his thoughts, he turned and smiled at her as he walked over to her and fluffed out his sleeping bag beside hers.

“I’ve grown accustomed to having you near me.” He said in answer to her look. “Is it my imagination or am I picking up your thoughts.”

She watched his face intently as she thought/sent, <I have grown accustomed to this closeness too. What will happen when we’re both back on the Enterprise? Do we pretend it never happened, or do we go back to the old state of neutrality?>

“State of neutrality? That’s an interesting way to put it. I can’t imagine not having you close. I don’t think I want to either. You told me once that every new experience changes us. I believe this is an example of that change.” He slipped into his bag, then pulled her sleeping bag closer to his own, then after a sweet kiss goodnight, he felt for her hand. They stayed like that until Deanna heard the familiar soft snore. She propped herself up on her elbow to watch him sleep., She sat up and leaned over to gently brush his hair with it’s stray lock from his forehead. She touched the sunburned area around his neck. Then felt his fingers squeeze then loosen their hold on hers as his sleep moved into the next deeper level.

There was a soft tap at the door. Deanna whispered, “Yes.”

Beverly looked in, “I’m not disturbing anything am I.”

Deanna shook her head, “You never give up do you? Can’t you sleep?” she peered through the darkness at her friend.

“No, can we talk. Data went down to look over the route to the river.”

“Can we go to your room. Will hasn’t had much sleep since we got here.”

Beverly nodded, then waited outside the door for Deanna. “How long have we been here, it’s beginning to feel like forever. I can’t wait to get back to the Enterprise. Hygiene was so much easier then.”

Deanna smiled, “We’ve been here longer than any of thought we’d have to be. What did you make of the information Lagi had shared with us?”

“You know the first person I thought of as a Gringbald alter ego was Pater! Well I know he didn’t come off as being wise, but there was something very strange about him and his sons.”

Deanna agreed, “That was my first thought too! Thinking back, it was a totally different mindset. I wonder whatever happened to the mother of the boys?”

“I’d like to think she died giving birth, she would never have to see what came of her baby boys. Can you imagine the life these women have? Did I mention I miss the Enterprise a lot! I appreciate what I have much more, friends I can trust with my life…do you realize that without thinking we put our lives in each others hands almost daily. That is pretty remarkable when you see how cheap and dispensable life is to some of these people.”

Beverly looked over to see Deanna looking out the window. “You know, every time I mention being back on the Enterprise you get this look on your face. I take it you and Mr. Riker haven’t made a decision about what kind of relationship you’ll have once we return?”

“We both admitted we like the change that’s taken place.” She shrugged her shoulders hoping she wasn’t adding her to her own wishful thinking.

“Deanna, you can read Will’s thoughts and emotions, what are they? You would know if they were sincere. Why don’t you go with your own feelings? Isn’t that what you would tell me? I would love to see this work for the both of you. The entire ship would like to see it. I’ve never seen two people more right for each other. You compliment each other in many ways. “ She turned to pretend she was now watching something outside, giving the empath time to think about what she said.”

“I know Will has changed from the brash young officer I first met and fell in love with on Betazed. I would like nothing more than to start our life together now. The past years together on the same ship has strengthened our relationship.”

The two continued talking for a while longer, then when Deanna caught Beverly yawning, she suggested she try to get some sleep. The doctor agreed and walked to the hammock and without thinking slid on to the elevated bed expertly and was nearly asleep as soon as head hit. Deanna opened the nearby sleeping bag to cover her with it, then made her way back to her room.

 She carefully got into her sleeping bag, hoping not to disturb Will’s sleep. He stirred, and somewhere in his dream filled sleep he called her name, pulling her closer to him. She stayed still watching him as he worked through his dream, knowing things could never go back to the comfortable way they were.

It was only a short time when a soft knock came at the door, then a whispered, “Lady, it is time.” Will had asked Lagi to make sure they were up before dawn.

Deanna again moved out of the sleeping bag to open the door. “Lagi, is Data back yet?”

“No Lady, I’m sure he’ll return before you are ready to leave.” Lagi turned to go, then looked back to Deanna, “If you will pardon my frankness, Lady, I feel I need to offer a piece of information.” She reached with her uninjured arm to take Deanna’s hand, “Be careful. In these days it is not safe to let others see that which means most to us. Those that are precious to you may be taken away, if for no other reason than to inflict pain. Gringbald thrives on other’s pain. You must learn to mask your eyes. You reflect in your eyes your heart.” She looked meaningfully at the door behind Deanna, then patted her arm before going down the narrow stairs. Deanna stood watching her descent, while sounds of the day’s preparations and the scent of warm food drifted up to her.

Beverly came out into the hall as Lagi departed. “She seems to have adopted you. That’s nice, except for the ominous warning. I know I don’t want to meet Gringbald. Is Will up yet?”

“No, I’m going in to do that now.’

“Deanna, have you slept at all?”

“No, to be truthful, I’m too keyed up. I think I can see this assignment nearing completion. This is it. Hopefully by the time this day ends, we’ll have Solace and Abeathdor safely aboard the Enterprise. I’m feeling as though the end is now in sight. I’ll see you in a few minutes.” Deanna heard Beverly’s door close as she went in to rouse Will.

After dressing she turned the light up to have a better look at him. He appeared to be sound asleep.  She sat next to him touching the hair moving it back. Then leaning over more she kissed his forehead, she felt him stir as she straightened, then she felt his hands on her shoulders as he pulled her down to him. Sometime later he asked if Data had returned yet.

“He hadn’t a few minutes ago. How did you sleep? Interesting dreams?” She was all smiles.

Will looked at her with his mock serious face, only his eyes betrayed the smile hidden behind the words. “We need to set some ground rules. No ease-dropping into dreams. I cannot be held accountable for my dreams, anyway I don’t remember. What did I dream?”

Deanna laughed, “Yes you do. I’m flattered you remember those details. I have to make the best of these opportunities now. When we’re back on board the ship, I may not have the skills I have here.” She became serious, “Will do you think that would change what we have now?” She watched his face closely for any expression.

He returned the scrutiny, “My feelings for you are not going to change if, when we return, you can’t tell me my dreams. I know you better than I have ever known anyone.” He held her eyes until she smiled. “Come on, we’d better get a move on.”

She watched as he went to the window and peered out into the still darkened glen. He closed the propped window and turned to her. “Deanna how would you feel about having  Captain Picard make it official once we’re back on the Enterprise?”

Her eyes had grown wide, she turned to him her voice barely a whisper, “Will, are you suggesting that we make this relationship permanent?”

“I believe I am. Deanna are you crying?” He walked to her and turned her to him. “You didn’t cry at our wedding.”

“I spent the night before in a lightfoot pen. I had a hangover through out the whole business transaction. I was too miserable to cry.” She chuckled with him at the memory, as he hugged her to him.

Beverly opened the door. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt…” She took in the scene of the two of them in each other ‘s arms smiling. “Anything you want to share?”

“What is this? Everyone is a mind reader!” Will couldn’t wipe the grin off his face.

“Does this mean what it looks like?” Beverly waited watching them.

Will smiled back liking the idea of keeping the good doctor guessing, “It could. Now before we go celebrating lets get this finished.”

Deanna gathered the rest of her things into her bag. Will took her bag and stood directly in her path as she tried to leave. She knew his mind, on her toes she reached for a kiss then followed Beverly out of the room.


On entering the main room, they noticed the fireplace was already in use for the preparation of the morning meal. Rankeer was moving slowly around with aid from Lepton. Deanna could sense that Rankeer was pushing himself, he wanted to be anything but helpless. He saw this trip into Gendla as an opportunity to redeem himself- to exorcise the guilt he had been carrying. The counselor’s experience taught her to allow Rankeer to see for himself the impractical and unwise course this decision would be for him. She pointed out that there might be times when no one would be available to help him.

In an angry attempt to show that he would not be a hindrance Rankeer pushed Lepton away, trying to stand on his own. Once that was accomplished, he endeavored to walk on his own over to where the doctor and counselor stood painfully aware of the young man’s limitations. Rankeer struggled to shift his weight from one leg to the other injured leg; he struggled longer than any of the observers thought possible.

Finally Beverly could tolerate no more of his self-mutilation. She pulled a chair to him, and helped him sit on it. Then proceeded to tell him of the magnificent structure of the leg and how it heals quickly when properly taken care of. Rankeer conceded. He would stay and work with Lagi in organizing the clean up and protection of those remaining in Fallscity.

Will and Lepton began packing the travel bags and few supplies on to the horses. When that had been accomplished, they once again gathered around the long wooden table to go over the tunnels and passage ways around and through the city. Will was beginning to show his uneasiness, when Data finally arrived back.

Data had timed the trip from Fallscity to Gendla, found his way to two of the government buildings they would need to enter. The timing had been excellent. They would take the horses to the edge of the city and walk just into Gendla, where they would use the first tunneled passageway.

“Let’s get moving. We want to be at the first passageway before the city gets into its busy daily routine.” Will lead the small group outside.

Gathered around the horses, the good-byes were once again said. Each time seemed to get harder, and more heart felt. Lagi adopted the away team as part of her pack. The woman who had at first seemed distant had warmed greatly, hugging and kissing each. Even Data seemed reluctant to leave her embrace. Deanna wondered if he was only mimicking the actions of the others. She hung back, waiting until last to say her farewells.

“Lagi, try not to worry. We will get Solace and Abeathdor out of danger, and back where they belong.” She embraced Lagi, ”Thank you for everything!”

“Lady, remember to be careful. Mask your feelings. Do not let Gringbald know that which is important to you, because there is nothing important like that to him. Please, be watchful and do not betray your heart, Lady, no matter what happens.” Again Deanna was hugged to the woman’s body.

She whispered in Lagi’s ear, “When I see you again, please call me Deanna.” Lagi smiled, but did not answer, turning she retraced her steps back on to the veranda and into the house.

Will had overheard Lagi’s advice. When Deanna had taken her place in front of him on the horse he said, “If I didn’t now better I’d think this was your home planet.” She just leaned back into him letting his warmth saturate and overtake the chill that touched her at leaving the glen.

It took a short amount of time before they came to the place to walk the horses behind the falls, leaving the glen and it’s people behind them. They were all comfortable in the warm hooded cloaks. Even though the rain had ended the air had a bite in it that hadn’t been there before, a premature taste of winter was hinted at in the breeze that swirled around them.

The falls quickly faded behind them as they continued toward Gendla, Will and Data picked up the pace making any conversation between them difficult if not impossible. The mood was subdued, Deanna sensed the heaviness of the emotions, and the mixture of cautious apprehension and the need to have this accomplished successfully.

The finally reached the area outside of Gendla where they would leave the horses. They unpacked their travel gear, leaving no trace of their identity on the animals. They would carry the gear and stash it in the first tunnel they would come to and leave it hidden there.

Will gathered his team around him. “We’ll cross the bridge into the city, then separate into two groups.  Lepton and I will go to the communications building, using the secret entrance that Lagi described. We should be able to either contact the Enterprise or shut down the interference band they’re using. Data will take Beverly and Deanna with him to the tower where we believe they are holding the queen, Data knows the approach to take.

“Counselor, I’m hoping you will be able at that point to help locate her. By that time Lepton and I should be in the sub-ground level of the tower, where we will meet. Data, take no unnecessary chances. Lagi has given us the schedule for the guard movements use that as a guide, however, be ready for anything, it’s very probable that schedule has been changed by now. Are we all ready? Everyone stay sharp, keep your wits about you.”

They had all begun to move back up to the road leading into the city when Will stayed behind, “Deanna”. She turned to him, feeling his emotions; she knew what to expect. He took her hand, holding it to pull her closer to him. “Be careful, after we get Abeathdor free we will go to the research building for the child.”

Deanna nodded, “Agreed”. They stood within a breath of each other for several seconds before Will gently lowered his face to hers, to touch her lips with his, separating for a milli-second before repeating kiss. He continued to hold her near, he chuckled, “We’ll have time for this later, Counselor.”

She whispered, “I’m holding you to that Commander.”

When they rejoined the rest of the group, they could hear the sounds of the river nearby. It was becoming daylight. A few birds were out in search of breakfast; there was no bird song. Deanna thought that to be ironic, just as there appeared to be little happiness on the outward appearance of the people inhabiting the town, nature echoed the same theme.

Their breath appeared as puffs of steam. The chill was definitely established here, no longer as a whisper of a premature winter, but as winter itself. They saw only a few people out and about as they came to the river bridge. The five spaced themselves out, so not to draw attention as a group. Will, Deanna and Lepton walking several yards ahead of Data and Beverly. They saw no women out alone, and the women they did see walked with their heads down, like well-trained spaniels their eyes focused on the heels of the man they followed. Deanna and Beverly followed that example. Beverly found herself grinding her teeth looking at Data’s heels.

Deanna was following behind Will, not watching his heels or anything else. She was reaching out with her mind searching past those of her friends, past those of the strangers around them, hunting for the two minds that she had come to know and miss- a queen and a child. She had become so absorbed in her thoughts and search that when Will stopped in front of her she walked into him. He turned to look at her with a concerned expression on his face, she smiled sheepishly. He raised his eyebrows questioning her. She shrugged her shoulders keeping her face lowered for the benefit of any watching the small group.

Beverly, although walking behind Data, caught the misstep and Will’s face. She chuckled and said softly to Data, “Thins should be a lot more interesting with those two as a couple. What do you think Data?”

He did not turn around, but cocked his head as he answered, “Doctor, are you implying that the relationship between Commander Riker and Counselor Troi is more than a fictional relationship?”

“Come on Data! Tell me you haven’t noticed a difference, you surely don’t believe all that is just for show?”

“I have been aware of a deepening friendship between them. That is how the commander and counselor have always referred to their relationship, is it not?”

“That has been the line they have used. You’ve never questioned that? Even when you’ve seen signs of a stronger emotion?” Beverly was truly amazed by Data’s innocence, or was it gullibility to Will’s poker face?

Data again tilted his head, “I will be more observant now. Thank you Doctor.” Beverly shook her head, no one can say this has been a boring assignment.

Will and Lepton had stepped off the pavement and disappeared from sight, into a thicket of trees and underbrush. Deanna waited until Data and Beverly caught up with her, then fell into step behind Data with Beverly.

“We will move off to the left a little way ahead, then down a slight incline to the area marked by thick brush.” Data kept his voice low so just the two behind him were able to hear his directions. Not that there were anyone close… in fact there were very few people anywhere.

They too stepped off the pavement and disappeared from the roadway. They traveled through a small thicket of trees before coming upon the underbrush. Data guided them through that underbrush, and toward several large boulders on one side of a tall tree behind the tree was an embankment of soil and rock rising about ten feet above them. Looking beyond the embankment they could see the tower looming over them. The sound of the river could be heard nearby.

“Counselor, can you sense Abeathdor yet?”

“Yes, Data, I can. I’ve been able to let her know to be alert for us, but I’m not picking up anything coherent from her.”

“Deanna, they are probably keeping her sedated.” Beverly looked puzzled. “Why would they do that now?” she looked from the empath to Data.

“Doctor, if I am not mistaken, Pater told Commander Riker that they had your communicators sent to Zylon to compensate for the lightfoot you sent free. If that is the case, I believe they can assume they know of presence of Starfleet. We will not give them time to react. May I suggest we proceed with caution and speed.” Data checked his phaser then returned it to the inside pocket of his cloak. He led the way along the embankment; the large face of a boulder now stood before them. Data reached above the stone into the dirt packed around it and pulled what looked like a piece of tree root. Through the clever combination of pulleys and gears the stone rolled slightly to the left. Data reached into the space left by the stone to finger yet another lever. The bottom fell away from under the stone. The stone itself did not appear to move this time. Upon closer scrutiny a stairway could be seen. Data sat on the top step, slipped or more accurately scooted down tow more steps until he could stand to continue his descent down. When he reached the bottom, he turned and motioned the other two to follow him.

“Deanna go next, I’ll follow, then I can take my time without holding you up.” Beverly moved aside for the counselor to move into the position to sit on the first step, following the Data’s example. She had not gone more than three steps when she felt the crush of the prisoners held her. She nearly missed the fourth step; she had become so distracted. Deanna regained enough of her senses to have finished her descent down the rest of the steps and reach the bottom.

After Beverly had joined them at the bottom, Data went back to reset the stone and the catches that masked the entrance. Now there was no trace of the opening that had been there only moments before. Deanna stood beside Beverly gasping, “Did you bring the medkit with you?”

The doctor lifted her cloak to show the shoulder bag underneath. “Deanna, you need a hypospray now. I imagine you’re getting a bit overloaded with the unpleasant feed back from those unfortunate souls being held here.”

Deanna nodded, “A little, perhaps a low dose will be all I need. I must be able to pinpoint Abeathdor. If she is drugged it will be harder to pick her out from all the other minds in here.”

Data held the light for the doctor as she opened the medkit and prepared the hypospray to be used now, and checked two others. She saw Deanna looked perplexed by the action. “I want everything prepared if we need something quickly.”

“A wise precaution Doctor.” Data held the kit while the she delivered the medication into Deanna.

They had traveled some distance when the passageway began an upward inclination, becoming narrower as it climbed steadily upward, until they rubbed the walls as they walked. Suddenly, they were facing a stone wall. Data moved forward feeling around the face of the wall; finally he found what it was he was searching for as he tripped yet another lever. The face of the wall slid off to the side. The three now entered into the subground level.

“This reminds me of the stories of ancient earth; castles and the dungeons underneath.”  Deanna looked at the doctor, pretending to be amazed at this revelation. Beverly added, “I told you I loved romantic fairy tales, those stories of knights in shining armor.”

“Yes, but dungeons, what kind of romantic fairy tales were you reading? And Beverly, exactly how old were you when you were reading these romance in dungeons?” The counselor didn’t duck fast enough to miss the slap on the arm.

Data turned to them ready to fly into his dissertation of dungeons and their place in history, when they heard the sound of boots scraping against the stone floor. Quickly they found a hiding place between several stacks of crates. The footsteps and voices stopped short of entering their area, instead they continued up the stairs.

The three waited until the sound of the boots had disappeared totally, before leaving their hiding area. Data held his tricorder out investigating the direction the others had taken. “I believe that is the way to the upper levels.” He led the way.

“She’s expecting us Data! She knows we are close. Can we go to the sixth floor from here? That is where she is.” The counselor was showing her newly found optimism; the most she had felt since their arrival on Prakal.

Data tilted his head at the readings he was seeing on his tricorder. “Unknown, however, the readings do indicate levels at greater heights. It would appear we can ascend to higher levels by accessing these stairs, Counselor?”

They began climbing the steps cautiously, there was no where to hide between floors. If they were found now, there would be few options left to them. Deanna found their progress painfully slow, she had to use all her self discipline to hold herself at that pace, and fight the impulse to race to their destination. The very goal that had eluded them time and time again now looked to finally be within their grasp.

Deanna never noticed Beverly standing beside her until the doctor put a hand on her shoulder, “How are you holding up? You may feel another onslaught as we near areas with more prisoners.”

“I do feel other’s emotions, but so far I am able to concentrate on Abeathdor, I’ll let you know when it becomes a problem. Thanks.”

They were nearing the third floor entrance when they heard others coming up from the floor below them. Data quickly reached the door opening it slowly, he slipped through, and the women followed him. They found themselves in a dimly lit short narrow hallway ending with connecting hallways at either end, giving it an H shape. There were three closed doors on the left-hand side and two doors on the right. The second door on the right was slightly ajar. Data went to the door, tricorder in hand, after reading no life signs inside, he signaled them to enter.

The room was well lit. It was suited for questioning prisoners and a study in contrast between the dark ages and modern technology, between an enlightened people and a people enshrouded in a darkness crowded with hatred and suspicious paranoia. Devices for obtaining hidden or imagined truths lined one side of the room. The opposite wall was lined with shelves containing hundreds of books.

Deanna felt the pain and misery of the many that had inhaled the poisonous air of the room. Her own lungs were now fighting for the oxygen that the previous occupants had fought for and had been denied. She began backing out of the room, when her back touched the door, she found she was not alone in her reaction. Beverly too, had found the equipment and it’s purpose to be barbaric and a curse to her profession. Data alone was untouched by the onslaught of feelings brought on by the rooms’ furnishings.

He looked over the equipment with curiosity. “Interesting, that the scientific mind could be employed to create such instruments when they would be better used in the medical treatment of these people.” He turned to look at his silent companions. He was mildly surprised to see both of them at the door with horrified expressions on their faces. “Are either of you about to be ill? Doctor?’

“Only if you insist on staying here to examine these interesting instruments much longer Data. Shall we see if the stairway is clear? I think we would both feel better once we’re out of here.” Then looking at the empath, “If I feel this way you must be in pain.” Deanna didn’t answer but turned to leave behind Data, not waiting for him to check for others. They met no one else and so continued their way up the stairs, until suddenly on the fifth floor the stairs ended.

“There must be another stairway connecting only the fifth and sixth floors. It’s probably isolated from the natural flow of traffic within the building, helping to secure the sixth floor. Data are we close enough that you could locate it?”

“I believe I have Counselor, if you will allow me a few minutes I will attempt to devise our next climb>” Data opened the door from the stair well on to the fifth floor, then disappeared into the hallway.

The counselor and doctor waited, “waiting was never one of my strengths. Deanna can you sense Will, what’s happening with them?”

“They have left the communications building and are on their way to meet us. They have regained communications with the Enterprise.” Deanna smiled, “So far everything is going smoothly.”

The doctor watched her face, the smile fading, and a look of concern replacing it. She had to wonder at the communications between the two of them. She saw different emotions cross Deanna’s face within a short period of time. “But, there’s more?”

“I don’t know, it’s that feeling that there is something we are missing. It’s that same feeling…” she didn’t finish Data returned.

“This way, the hallway is unoccupied for now. Go down two doors to your left. The second door leads to the stairs for the next floor.” Data held the door allowing the women to leave ahead of him. He took up the rear watching for anyone who may be following them. They were on the sixth floor before making contact with anyone. A guard walked out of a door next to the stairs as they entered the hallway. Data effeciently disposed of him with one fast smooth blow to the chin the man went down. His assailant hid the unconscious form, easily moving him into another room.

As soon as the man was no longer a threat, Deanna continued down the hallway. She had a strong sense of Abeathdor, she was near and Deanna could no longer move at the same pace. She rounded the corner knowing instinctively where to go. She went through the first door on the right; she was running purely on instinct, no longer paying attention to the need for caution. The room entered was an office or lobby area, there were other doors exiting the room. The empath went straight to one door. It was locked; she looked to Data, then stepped back.

Data used the palm of his hand to smash the door above the handle. Nothing happened. He looked at the door incredulously, then repeated his action. The door slowly creaked open. Nobody moved. Data pushed the door the rest of the way open. The room was pitch black; there was no light anywhere, just total darkness.

“Can you sense anyone, Counselor?” Data asked.

“Abeathdor. She is in there. I sense no trap, Data can you tell with the tricorder if there is a trap?”

“The readout I am getting does not indicate a snare, Counselor.”

Deanna stepped slowly into the room, using her mind she called out to Abeathdor. Data there’s a light off to your left. Can you find it?”

The response was light, very bright light. It took several moments for all but Data to adjust to the sudden brightness enough to see the room’s contents. There was little to see, the room was starkly supplied, no windows, two hard-backed wooden chairs, and a shelf type bed fastened on to the far wall. The occupant of the bed lay watching them.

Deanna went to her, pulling Beverly along with her. “Abeathdor.” Deanna touched her arms feeling the restraints, “We are here now. It’s over. Are you able to move?”

“I will need assistance to stand. I have not been capable of breaking these.” She lifted her arms to reveal the chains that were sunk into the solid surface on either side of her.

Beverly was mortified, “How long have you been kept like this?” She talked as she had her medkit open and began checking the woman’s physical condition.

“I have rarely been without restraints of one kind or another. Is it possible to release these?”

Data held the chain off of her right arm, looking at it, his mind making record of it’s density and the pressure required per inch that would be needed to snap a link. Then he simply squeezed one of the links to break the chain. He walked over to the other side of the woman and repeated the steps, leaving the queen free of  restraints at long last.

to be continued

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