When the away team materialized in sickbay the doctor sprang into action reclaiming it as her domain. She instructed her staff to help Abeathdor and Commander Riker on to biobeds. Doctor Crusher immediately began to work on the Commander when Captain Picard arrived, “What happened?” He took a quick look around noticing the stranger, he assumed to be Abeathdor. He knew that the beam up was for four people. Data now stood beside him. “Where is the counselor?” Without waiting for an answer, “Mr. Worf, lock on to the counselor and beam her aboard immediately.”
“Captain, I cannot establish a fix on the counselor. I will continue trying.”
Picard had walked up to Commander Riker’s biobed, attempting to stay out of the doctor’s way. She knew his concern and determination to ascertain the events leading up the reality they now faced. Crusher spoke between giving orders and running tests on the unconscious commander. “Captain, it’s a very long story. Deanna stayed with Gringbald to allow us to get Will and Abeathdor back to the Enterprise.” She nodded over to where her staff was taking care of the queen. “Data is trying to come up with a plan to get Deanna back. I need to look after Will, Captain.” The doctor moved around him to look closer at the mark on the commander’s face.
Picard backed way having no desire to exasperate the doctor or the situation any further. He could see the toll the mission had taken on her. “Data, I’d like to hear what happened. We can use Doctor Crusher’s office.”
Three hours later Beverly entered her office as Data was describing the confrontation with Gringbald. She stood in the doorway listening to the details of their last moments on Prakal. When Data had completed his narration she watched as the captain tried to decipher the whole mystery.
“Captain, I don’t think Gringbald will give Deanna up. I believe there is ore to this than his needing or wanting her empathic skills.”
“Doctor, what are you basing your assumption on? Do you know what it is he wants?”
“No I don’t know what he wants. Captain on that planet you learn to rely on your instinct and mine tells me there’s more than we know. Deanna felt that there was something important that we were not seeing.”
“I have nothing to base a theory on at the present time. I am now reprogramming the entire mission events to attempt to postulate an apt hypothesis on the subject of Gringbald and his purpose in holding the counselor.”
A nurse stood in the doorway. “Doctor, Commander Riker has regained consciousness and is insisting that he speak with you.”
“Thank you Alyssa.” Beverly went to the bio-bed Will was on. The Captain and Data were close behind her. When they had reached him, he was already sitting on the edge of the bed. The large swollen mark on his face was now a deeper, darker shade of maroon, if the change was brought about by the restoration of a normal flow of blood to the area, Beverly would now find out.
Riker’s look encompassed the three of them as they approached him; his scolding comments were for Data and Beverly. “They told me Deanna is still on the planet. How could that have happened? How could you have let it happen?” He was angry, probably angrier than Beverly had ever seen him, and most of the anger she knew to be directed with himself.
“Will, she insisted. It was the only way Gringbald would allow us to return. You were in great need of medical attention, and so was Abeathdor.” Beverly looked over at the bed occupied by the queen. Will followed her look, he had never seen Abeathdor until now.
“Captain, permission to return to the planet.” Will started off the table, his knees buckled as soon as his feet touched the floor.
“Commander, right now you can’t stand on your own two feet, you are in no shape to lead a rescue mission. We will go back down for the counselor. First we need all the information available about exactly what is happening down there.”
Picard next addressed the doctor, “How long before he is able to maneuver on his own?”
“I’d like him rested for at least twenty-four hours. We haven’t any experience with that kind of weapon. I don'’ know what kind of after effects to expect. The weapon was designed to leave no survivors. I know he is alive now primarily due to Abeathdor and Deanna.” She looked back to where the future queen was still being administered to.
Data confirmed the statement. “That is correct, the weapon was meant to kill. The design is one we have no knowledge of, and the Commander was in fact dying.”
The captain listened quietly, then after a long sigh, “Doctor Crusher, how is our guest?”
“She is suffering from exhaustion. We have managed to cleanse most of the drugs from her system. She is somewhat impaired by the long periods of physical inactivity. Other than that, I believe she will always retain some of the effects of the mental and emotional trauma, but seems well enough adjusted that even that will not be an impairment to her well being.”
“How long will you hold her in sick bay?”
Beverly raised her eyebrows at the question, “She can leave now, as long as she is allowed to rest.”
“You think her well enough to enlighten us on her homeworld?”
“As long as you go easy, Jean-Luc and stop when she shows signs of fatigue.”
“There will be a senior staff meeting in one hour. Doctor, I would appreciate your attendance.” He turned to Data, I believe an introduction is in order with her majesty, would you be so kind?”
“Yes sir.” Data and the captain made their way over to Abeathdor.
Beverly stayed behind with Will. “She really is quite regal. I understand what it was Deanna was trying to describe.”
At the mention of Deanna’s name Will winced. “Beverly, I need to know what happened. How Deanna managed to stay behind. All of it.”
The doctor continued monitoring his vitals as she talked. “We were coming down from the third floor. Data was carrying Abeathdor, when we became aware that something was wrong. Deanna called out your name and began flying down the steps. She must have had some contact with you. I heard her say, “try to hang on. Imzadi’ Do you remember any communication with her at the time of the attack, or shortly thereafter?”
“I think I remember hearing her in my head. I remember …some of it.” Will shook his head, “The details become a little fuzzy. We were in the tunnel and had just moved into the subground level when we were surrounded by Gringbald’s men. Someone asked if the woman was with us. Then I felt this tremendous pain in my head. I think I may have called out to Deanna then, to warn her. I have no memory of anything else… except I do remember hearing her voice in my head. And the sound of a heart beat.” He stopped talking to look at the doctor while thinking out what he was about to say next. He held his hand out in front of him, palm up, his voice a mere whisper. “I felt as though I held her heart in my hand. Maybe it was just a dream, or part of my brain as it was closing down.”
Beverly had given him a hypo and helped him into her office where they could continue the conversation in a more private setting. After both were seated she began to tell him how things had come to this end. “When we reached the subground level, *you* were waiting for us. Deanna was the only one who knew it wasn’t the real you. It was Gringbald.” She smiled as she remembered how the counselor deactivated him. Beverly left out the details of Gringbald’s rough handling of Troi, but continued on with the story. “Deanna found you unconscious behind a stack of crates. When I examined you, you were dying. The weapon he used shuts down brain activity, then the rest of the body dies. Deanna found a heart beat. Abeathdor instructed Deanna how to use her own heart and her empathic skills to revive you. Although I’m sure there was more to it than that, but I have no explanation for how it worked, or why. Just that she was told she would be exchanging her life for yours, she did so willingly, choosing also to stay behind. We could not persuade her to wait until another options became available. Getting you and Abeathdor out were the priority.”
“Once you were revived, Deanna used a sedative on you, to allow Gringbald to continue believing you to be dead. He allowed everyone to leave but her. His reasoning was that Abeathdor was too much a liability. Deanna had the same skills and none of the threat. Personally, I believe there is so much more to the story. I just don’t know what.”
“What about the child, Beverly?”
“That is also part of the deal she struck with Gringbald. She requested the child and that the child be allowed to stay with her. He allowed it. I find that disturbing and totally out of character. There is more going on here than we know, but what?” The doctor continued working on the commander’s face, until the redness disappeared.
When she completed all her administrations she stood back and asked, “How are you feeling? Are you up to the senior staff meeting?”
“I wouldn’t miss it, or the opportunity to talk with our queen. He looked over in the direction he last knew her to be, noticing for the first time that she had gone. “What is you impression there, could this be a set up?”
“I don’t know, she seems sincere. There is something strange going on, but what?”
Will slowly got to his feet, with deliberate and practiced movements he was able to move about on his own, slowly at first. “Doctor, shall we go.” He watched as she placed her tricorder in her jacket pocket to take along.
She caught his look and smiled, “Some habits are hard to break, you just get used to having things close by.”
“Tell me about it.” It was said in a low voice. Will was thinking of Deanna, this wasn’t the first time they had been separated, even on this mission, but it had a desperate feel about it now. Will stopped in mid stride to look at the doctor. “Could Abeathdor contact Deanna from here? They had contact before from a further distance?”
“You’re right, come on let’s go.”
They reached the observation lounge and were the last to take their seats. Captain Picard noted their arrival. “Good, I believe we can begin. Commander Riker, I would like to introduce you to Her Majesty Abeathdor.”
“Commander, I feel as though we have known each other for a long time. I would like to thank you for all you’ve done. You could never know what it means to me. If I could do anything for you, please name it.”
Will bowed, “Your majesty, there is one thing I would ask in return.”
Picard was surprised that Will would ask anything so soon, and yet, he knew what it would be that his first officer would ask.
“Please, Commander, I know of what you would ask. Please be assured I have tried to communicate with her. I have been unable to reach her as of yet. I do have a sense of her, I know her to be alive. Gringbald has a habit of drugging anyone he has a problem with. She may simply be unable to communicate now.”
“Is that what he did to you, Your Majesty. He drugged you? I know there were many times Deanna could feel your presence, but was unable to make a connection." Beverly had the medical test results from Abeathdor with her, rather than read them, she thought everyone would get a better idea of what they were up against if one of the victims would share the experience with them.
“To be honest, I have little recollection of time. Days and nights were barely recognizable one from the other. Everything was hazy. Deanna was the only thing that set things apart, she made a difference in that long blur of time.” Abeathdor sat rigidly regal, her back straight, her speech was pure. She had royalty written about her person, just as surely as if she had a crown upon her head. It was clear from her slightest movement she was born to rule.
She talked for sometime about her experience with Gringbald and his henchmen. One other fact became quite clear – she had a great distaste for Zylon and his torturous methods.
“Captain, have you learned the origin of Gringbald yet?” Data asked.
“Abeathdor and I have come to no strong conclusions. We do know he is not from Prakal. We have been asked by Abeathdor to intercede on the planet’s behalf, and the Federation ahs agreed to help.” Picard looked down the length of the table before continuing.
“Let’s begin to piece it all together. Let’s see how many pieces to this puzzle elude us. I will want full detailed reports from each of you. Right now, let us stick to Gringbald and Zylon, and the others you have made personal contact with. Do we have any reason to believe him to be empathic or telepathic? I want examples to explain your opinion.”
Beverly shifted in her chair. “Well, there is one thing. He called me
doctor. When Deanna agreed to stay if he allowed us to leave, he said ‘
Doctor, do you know what the smell of burning hair means?’”
“He asked you what?” Will was appalled. “Who’s burning hair?”
“He was referring to what he called the martyr in our midst – to Troi’s willingly staying.” Beverly spoke quietly, knowing the kind of effect this had on him.
“Captain, Gringbald also knew of the counselor’s empathic skills. These were not discussed on the first mission. Someone either told him, or there is the possibility he too may be telepathic. However, if that were the case, why would he need someone with those same skills?” Data looked at Abeathdor for the answer.
“I do not believe Gringbald to have any of those skills. I know he is very resourceful and he has many that would betray even their own family just to gain his favor. His network of spies is unfathomable. I would believe that he has used a collaborator, someone still accepted by the wastepeople as one of their own. Someone wit up to the moment details of any threats that would cripple his plans.” Abeathdor sat quietly before turning to Beverly; “Did you examine Lepton?”
“I did a quick check on him. There were no life signs. Cause of death – acute brain dysfunction that ultimately led to organ failure.” Beverly stopped to think about the question. “Do you have reason to believe Lepton may have been the agent Gringbald used?”
“Gringbald is in the habit of using people’s emotions to recruit them into doing deeds they would not have ordinarily even considered doing. Lepton and I were at one time childhood friends. He played an important role in my life when my sister was queen. Our friendship ran very deep, but I knew him to be weak when it came to things he held precious. He was materialistic; he had the need to look prestigious. Gringbald could have used my captivity over him to get him to co-operate in his notorious deeds, or he could have promised him gifts. He went for a long time with little or nothing, you cannot overestimate the impact such promises would have on one.” Abeathdor began to look tired and worn; her shoulders seemed to sag under the weight of the insight she imparted. “I may well be s responsible as Lepton, I should have been able to see this outcome.”
“Your majesty, when you came aboard the Enterprise you still had a fair amount of chemicals in your system. I’m certain they were there precisely to keep you from full understanding and communicating any of this. Lepton may not have had such a big role to play in all this. Deanna would have sensed his deception.” Beverly was impressed by Abeathdor’s humility to take the blame upon herself.
“When you left Prakal, you were able to communicate with us for beam up. Are there any communications channels open, that we are unaware of?” the captain looked at Data.
“I believe we were permitted to communicate only because it served their
purpose, sir.” Will was now beginning to focus over his own feelings better
with the goal of getting Deanna back.
to be continued
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