Abeathdor tried to stand but found that all the weeks of inactivity had taken a toll on her muscles. As she attempted to slide off the shelf that had served as her bed her legs could no longer hold her. Deanna and Beverly quickly moved to hold her helping her to stay on her feet. Beverly signaled Data over to assist the woman. He asked Abeathdor’s permission then lifted her gently in his arms.
“We should go now.” There was no need to elaborate; they were right behind him as he led the way back to the stairs. Deanna walked behind Data and Abeathdor communicating what their plans were to the queen. She noticed the perfect posture, the regal way the woman held herself. Even now, after all the time spent as a captive she had not buckled under Gringbald’s pressure. She never gave up her inheritance, or her sanity. The counselor noticed the physical attributes, her red hair, and her large green eyes, the high cheekbones and prominent nose. A striking woman of some height, judging by the way her feet hung well past Data’s knees, as he carried her in his arms.
They moved rapidly this time, slowing only to wait for people using the fifth floor stairway. Finally they were on their way down past the entrance to the third floor. Deanna stopped suddenly, almost tripping Beverly; she put her hand to her mouth and cried out, “WILL!” She flew past Data and began taking the steps at a break neck speed. “We’ve got to get down to help Will!” Then more quietly almost to herself, “NO… hand on Imzadi.”
Beverly and Data were close behind her. Beverly was sure she had heard Abeathdor whisper something. She looked sharply at her, Abeathdor’s eyes were closed and a tear glistened in the corner of her eye. “What? What did you say?” Beverly managed to wheeze as they continued to race down the stairs.
“It’s too late.” Abeathdor repeated softly.
Deanna had already run through the subground door into the area they had hidden in not long before. She stopped abruptly, looked with amazement at Will Riker who stood before her smiling. Now the others had caught up with her and stood behind the counselor watching. Beverly took a deep breath of air, as relief flooded over her.
Something was not right. Deanna stood there staring as though she couldn’t believe her eyes. She looked around for Lepton, but could neither find nor sense his presence. She began to react to the dread that had gripped her heart. Will Riker went to her holding her tightly against him, her head buried in his chest. He continued to hold her tightly, too tightly, even Beverly knew something was wrong ~very wrong.
Deanna tried to turn her head from Riker’s chest to warn the others, but the hand that held her head was not loving, nor tender. She tried to push him away, tried to kick at him, the position he held her in would allow none of it.
“Come now, is that anyway to treat your Commander?” It was said in Will’s voice, but not Will’s voice. It was said in a way that chilled the blood of the three that knew Will Riker. Deanna felt as though her heart was being squeezed. She needed to get away from this Riker. With her head crushed against his chest, she closed her eyes trying to think of what to do. This was not her Will. It didn’t smell like him. It didn’t sound like him, and those were not Will’s arms that held her. She sank her teeth into his chest. It was all she could think to do. He howled in pain, she held on to him as he tried to disengage himself. Finally he literally threw her from him. She came to a sliding stop close to a pair of boots sticking out past the crates they had hidden behind earlier.
Then with an overwhelming sense of foreboding she went to those boots to find the one thing she would have given her life not to find. There was her Will; he was lying on his back, his eyes closed and a large red mark spread from his temple to his chin. Deanna fought the nausea and the blackness that swirled around her and threatened to suck her into its vortex. She swayed, fought it, drawing upon her own need to prove that what she saw was not real. Already all of her senses told her to expect the unacceptable.
She sank down on her knees to feel Will’s neck for a pulse. It was there but so faint she could easily have missed it. Beverly was at her side running her tricorder over him. She stopped looking stricken; she turned to look at Deanna. “He is dying. His brain has all but stopped functioning, there is very little neuro activity.”
The other “Riker” now stood behind Deanna, “I knew the first time I laid eyes on you, that this would be our destiny. You shall now depend on me for your life.” He threw back his head and laughed, a hollow stilted sound echoed through the cement walls.
Deana could hardly contain the anger and grief she was feeling. “What have you done to him?”
He reached down, pulling her by the hair he brought her to her feet. “It’s a little something I picked up on another planet.” He held a phaser like weapon for her to see. “It’s called a mind disrupter. One shot to the head and the victim dies slowly from the brain down!” His face held a hideous smile painted on it. “There’s no way to stop him from dying now. It’s a slow and quite enjoyable way to send someone to their death ….if you have a penchant for such things.”
Deanna could no longer control the rage that was storming within her.
She struck out at him, her blows had no affect. She hit with more force;
the blows she landed hadn’t even wiped the smile off of the man’s face.
She did something she had never done before, she pulled her arm back, then
struck forward with all of her strength, striking him, using the palm of
her hand to connect with his chin to drive his head sharply backward. Giving
him no time to recover she kicked at his knee sending him fling on to his
Beverly had remained with Will, Deanna joined her at his side. The doctor looked at her with despair stamped in her eyes. Data brought Abeathdor to them, after seating her carefully on the floor; he went to tend to the imposter Riker.
Abeathdor knew the emotional turmoil of the two women, she was keenly aware of Deanna’s feelings. She thought/sent <He can be saved. You alone can save him. However, you may only be trading places- your life for his.>
Deanna looked at her verbally she said, “Yes anything, Tell me what to do.”
Beverly and Data exchanged looks, having heard only one part of the conversation they were skeptical as to what could happen to change the situation with which they were now faced.
Abeathdor moved to the side of Will opposite of Deanna and Beverly. This time she spoke to Deanna, having sensed the empath’s desperate emotional state she wanted to make sure her directions were heard b both women. “Deanna, you understand you may only be trading places with him?”
“Yes, I understand the implications. Now please tell me what to do.” The voice was edged with impatience and raw with barely constrained emotion.
Abeathdor nodded, “Put his left hand on your heat. It must be over the heart. He must be able to feel the heartbeat.” After adjusting the low blouse, Deanna picked Will’s hand up placing it on the skin above her heart. She held it there. Ironically, the thought that the clothes they wore finally seemed to skip through her mind.
Abeathdor continued, “You must hold it with your right hand.” She paused allowing Deanna time to follow her instructions. “Now place your left hand on the flesh above his heart.” This took some maneuvering, the heartbeat had become so slow and faint that Deanna had trouble finding it. Sliding her hand under his shirt she moved her hand to the area Beverly directed her to. Deanna looked at Abeathdor awaiting further instructions. They came to her spoken clearly and slowly, “You must convince him to live. You need to speak to his mind and to the heart of him so that your thoughts become his. Speak from your heart to his. You are the only one here that can do this. Deanna, you need to speak non-verbally and with all of your heart.”
The other “Riker” had now recovered and strolled over to them. Even with Data holding his weapon on him, he spoke as though he was still in control of the situation. “Really, this is very touching, but the man is dead - or close enough to it. I’ll tell you what; we’ll do a little trade. I’ll keep one of you and the rest can go.” He looked meaningfully at Deanna, leaving no doubt which one would be staying. “Ah, you can take the remains of that one too if you so desire. What do you say?”
“Do you mind! Can’t you see we need a moment here. Let her have a minute alone with him. She is in the middle of a Betazoid Death Ritual. You cannot interfere.” Beverly was throwing a screen, hoping to buy the empath the time she needed.
Deanna could hear what was happening around her, but it no longer mattered, all that mattered lay before her. She cried out to him that he could not leave her now. They would make many journeys together, but he could not take this one…not now. Not after all the years it took for them to finally come to know they needed each other to be complete. Her tears soaked her cheeks, and clouded her vision, none of it mattered. So deep in her concentration on him, on her binding their lives together in the weaving of an eternal thread around their souls, that she missed the slight changes in him, at first. Then, there it was the slow deeper heart beat under her hand. Her eyes still closed; she pressed her hand harder into his chest. Yes, he was living, the heartbeat continued to pick up the tempo - slowly and little by little the thudding in his heart came close to mirroring that of her own. Beverly noticed her change, then looked closer at Will. The gray appearance began subsiding. Deanna continued concentrating speaking non-verbally to him. She nearly jumped out of her own skin when she felt his hand over her heat caress the skin there.
Beverly and Data had now begun questioning “Riker” in earnest, arguing with him to further shield him from viewing what was happening. Deanna carefully reached into the medkit Beverly had left beside her, she removed a hypospray of a sedative, and then leaned over to kiss Will tenderly on the lips as she slid her arm around him to deliver the medication. She covertly returned the hypo to the medkit and leaned over to again kiss the lips of the man she would give her life for; she whispered her love against them, for perhaps the last time.
Sitting up, she noticed Abeathdor’s questioning look, she thought/sent <He needed to believe in Will’s death, or he will never permit him to leave.>
Beverly continued to face down the adversary demanding, “Why should any of us do what you ask, you are now our prisoner.”
“Unfortunately for you, dear lady, I have my men surrounding you. You see it is you who have no choice.” He made a motion that brought all of his men from their hiding places. They were indeed surrounded.
“If you don’t mind, I’ll have my weapon back now. I’ve allowed you a turn at the lead. Now let me repeat my qualifications for you to live, and yes I’ll even permit you to return to your ship. One of you will stay here for the rest to leave.”
He turned to face Deanna. She stood in front of him. “You want me to stay, and in return you will allow the rest to leave?”
In front of their eyes, “Riker” changed, his form shifted back to the familiar shape of Gringbald. “That is what I said.”
“All of them can go. Abeathdor and the body of the Commander?”
The doctor moved over to stand beside Deanna, facing Gringbald. “Wait a minute, why Deanna? What is it that you would give up the queen for?” She was mystified as to Gringbald’s scheme, and horrified that Deanna would even consider staying here with him.
“Keeping an heir to the throne is only inviting trouble. I would only have to kill her eventually. Take her back to your starship. As to why keep this one… she has what I need, but she does not hold the threat of rebellion that Abeathdor will carry as long as she is alive here.”
He walked closer to Deanna, fingering a long strand of hair, he said, “You would be my Queen now that you will be staying here with me. This could be very invigorating.” He laughed the dirty snide laugh full of innuendoes.
“You’ll let us say good bye in private?” Beverly asked, barely able to keep her own anger under control.
“You mean will I leave while you contact your ship? NO! I will take Abeathdor over here so you can say your good-byes. If you pull anything I’ll kill her.” There was no doubt he meant it. They watched as he hauled Abeathdor to her feet, dragging her over by the archway, where the body of Lepton lay.
Beverly, Data and Deanna huddled together, Beverly embraced her friend. “Deanna, what are you doing” You can’t stay here alone. I am not going back without you.”
“You don’t have a choice. Will needs your expertise, as does Abeathdor. This is the only way to get them both out now. It’s all I can think to do, do you have a better solution. Beverly, please. We don’t know how much time Will has before the sedative wears off, or what kind of shape he will be in when it does. I’m going to bargain for Solace before you go.” They hugged again before moving apart.
Following Beverly’s example Data now moved up to embrace Deanna. “Counselor, I may be able to come up with an alternative plan. Are you determined to rescue the child.”
“I am Data. He seems to enjoy compromise and bargaining, I will begin before you go.”
He hugged her and slipped his communicator into her pocket. “Counselor, you please check your right pocket when you are alone. I will attempt a beam up when we can clear their jamming devices. Stay well Deanna, we shall have you back with us soon.”
“What about Lepton Beverly, Can you do anything for him?”
I scanned him earlier; there were no life signs. It was too late.” She paused, looking hard at her friend, “Deanna, are you sure?”
“Yes.” Their eyes never left each other as they spoke each hoping this would not be last time they would see one another.
“Okay, time is up. Let’s get moving. Nothing clever, no heroics. One martyr in the group is plenty. I think you have no recourse but to do as I say.” Gringbald walked Abeathdor over to them, then with one fluid movement latched on to Deanna, dragging her away from her crewmates.
Deanna spoke now, “Before they go, I want you to allow me the deaf child your men took abducted. I believe she is now in the research building. She will be staying with me.” She held her ground like a general, hands on hips demanding a move.
“Last minute request?” He paused as though considering the alternative. “You may have the child. Provided they haven’t begun infection procedures. You will be too occupied with my plans to spend much time or effort there.” He shrugged his shoulders; “You may have her if that ‘s your desire. I will allow this, but you will not get all that you want. I on the other hand, shall have all that I desire. Do you understand?”
“I understand perfectly.” It was the steel in her voice that drew not only his attention but also the scrutiny of her teammates.
Gringbald laughed, “Do you smell the scent of burning hair, doctor? You know what that means don’t you? I believe there is a beautiful martyr in our midst, and I do love a good martyr.” He held Deanna by the arm to embrace her. “Say goodbye to all your friends.”
Beverly looked at her friend, her lips tightly compressed. “You are a twisted cruel creature.”
“Go on your way, before I change my mind!” Gringbald signaled his men to close their circle around the away team and Abeathdor.
Deanna watched feeling more and more the weight of her decision like a millstone weighing her down. The depression of seeing her friends prepare to leave without her was more then she had prepared herself for.
Data went to Will, reached into his pocket to retrieve his communicator. Beverly and Abeathdor stood near to him, the doctor had one arm around Abeathdor, and the other on Data’s shoulders as Data activated the communicator.
“Data to Enterprise four to beam directly to sickbay, medical emergency.”
A startled Worf replied, “Acknowledged.”
The group shimmered then disappeared. Deanna steeled herself not to give into the hopelessness that would soon lead to the tears that were lurking behind her eyes. She would not let this Gringbald see what watching them, seeing Will leave in the state he was in, did to her. She was holding on to her emotions by a thread.
to be continued
please click here for part seven