Gringbald watched Deanna as she viewed her friend’s departure. She knew he was playing a gam. She knew he was watching her. What she couldn’t answer was, what kind of game and why her. He made concessions that didn’t make any sense, and yet she expected him to make those very concessions. She knew he would allow her to have Solace. What she couldn’t figure out was why.
“Well, my dear, I’m afraid they will have to have the rest of the death ritual without you. Let me show you to your new home.” He was smiling as he took her arm with a firm grip, one hand holding the wrist the other he placed on her shoulder; before she could react another man came to inject her in the arm with a long dangerous looking needle. “Zylon always said a little pain is good for the soul. I wonder what he meant? This is good for my peace of mind.”
She began to feel numbness starting in the arm but spreading quickly through her. Gringbald was holding her by the arm while the other man supported her on that side. Gringbald or his men flanked her on every side, front and back. They walked in that procession to the palace. When she realized they were not going in the direction of the research building she pulled out of Gringbald’s grasp. “Are we going to get the child now?”
“No we aren’t. We are going our new home.” His statement was heavy with sarcasm. He put his arm around her waist. It may have looked friendly but the force with which we held her was far from that of a companion. It was just another way he would control her.
They entered the palace. Deanna looked around trying to orient herself with her surroundings. Nothing looked familiar, it could have been the effect of the injection, or this was a part of the palace she had not seen before. These rooms were obviously set aside as private living areas. The hallways were thickly carpeted and much narrower then the broad open areas she had been in previously.
Gringbald pulled her up a flight of stairs; most of the men that had accompanied them from the tower had dispersed by then. One man stood at the top of the stairs, he came along side of her replacing the earlier soldier with the needle. Deanna tried to get a look at his face; he kept his head turned or down to avoid eye contact with her. When she turned to look ahead, she knew he was studying her. She could sense his curiosity, but she was fuzzy enough with the drug she could sense little else.
They came to a stop in front of an automated door. The first sign of modern technology she had seen in the palace. The door opened to expose a room quite lavish in its creature comforts: well-cushioned chairs and a couch made up one side of the room, there were a table and chairs on the other side. The room appeared to be an “L” shape, without entering it was impossible to see what lay beyond the table and chairs.
Gringbald started to enter into the compartment with Deanna still within his grasp. She jerked away from him, to stand, swaying, on her own; refusing to step inside. “I can have you physically carried in, either conscious or unconsciously. It is your choice. Why fight now, save it for a time when it will mean something.” He looked smugly at her, then at one of the guards. The guard interpreted the looked and moved to her side, awaiting the regent’s further instructions. Deanna looked at the guard, again trying to understand his almost sympathetic emotions.
“Well Deanna, you make your decision, now.” He waited, watching her.
She hadn’t any doubt there was no good purpose behind Gringbald’s motives, and yet there was no plan, no help for her now. She had to buy some time until an opportunity or help became available. She put her head back standing as straight as possible then walked as aristocratically as she could manage into the room. He followed her, watching closely his face still holding the smug look, but she knew he didn’t expect her to pull that one off.
Once inside the room she did a quick reconnaissance, checking out the part of the room unobservable from the doorway. Here she found a bed, a chest, a wardrobe, and the needed furnishings for personal hygiene.
“Very good, Commander. Now I’d like you to wear these clothes for now on.” He had gone to the wardrobe, opening the door to expose a closet full of clothing. Deanna could smell the pine scent from the wood of the wardrobe, the same scent that brought memories of the glen. She watched as he displayed some clothing. Again, she experienced the feeling of seeing but not seeing something. She tried to pull back to look at the scene dispassionately, as though it was all happening to someone else. Like looking in a child’s learning book, find what’s wrong with this picture, find the object that doesn’t belong with the others. She could find no answer.
“I don’t think so, not until I have the child Solace. Then we will talk.” She looked at him defiantly, then moved to sit in the cushioned chair - the chair the furthest from him, the clothes and the bed.
“As you wish. We will spend little energy arguing in the future, you will come to appreciate that soon enough. However, you will not leave this room again dressed as you now are. That is not debatable or negotiable.” He stood a few feet from her and looked her over from head to toe. Gringbald went to the chest of drawers, picked up the box that sat on the surface of the chest. He brought the box over to where Deanna was sitting.
“I require you to wear this. Think of it as ornamental. You have no choice.” He held her wrist with one hand then withdrew from the box a white armband. He held it in front of her for her to see it; its composition was of a ceramic material, yet it was of a more translucent nature. There were fine delicate designs around the band. He held her right hand out, the band opened on a hinge type of mechanism. He placed it above the right elbow, then snapped it shut. It fit rather snugly as if it was made for her. The fit prevented the band from being slid down the arm and off.
“We shall talk later.” He tested the band one last time, then Gringbald and his men left. The door closed and locked.
Deanna found she was alone, for the first time on the planet she truly felt all-alone. She began pacing the room looking for clues to solve this puzzle. Only questions came to mind: What was Gringbald up to? Why did he want her when he could have had Abeathdor? She was reasonably certain it had little to do with her empathic skills, although it might have been an added prize. How did he know she was empathic? What was the difference between Abeathdor and her? She was a Starfleet officer- but so was Beverly, Data and Will. Why would he be interested in her above them? They all had skills this planet had a deficit in.
She circled the room countless times before she went to the wardrobe and began to look through the clothing. She needed a diversion but didn’t find any in the clothing, she couldn’t concentrate, the drug was dulling her wits and she desperately needed them now. She fought to stay on her feet, prancing from one thing to the other, fingering the water jugs and towels, then back to the wardrobe to rummage through the odd fabrics. She caught her reflection in the mirror hung on the wall, it rendered a vision of a weary and scared counselor. She missed her friends, she missed Will. The weariness tugged at her bones until she could barely remain on her feet. She went to the bed, stripped it of the blanket, then made her way to the cushioned chair that faced the door. There she curled up with the blanket wrapped around her, and was asleep within minutes.
Deanna was awakened by voices outside the door; it opened to reveal Gringbald and another man. It took seconds for Deanna to realize the man had a child in his arms. She was quickly out of the chair, leaving the blanket to fall on the floor. She reached for the child, Solace appeared to be asleep, totally unaware of the change in her surroundings.
“What have you done to her?” Deanna demanded of Gringbald in a tone of such strength he could not ignore her.
He again gave her the practiced smug look, arching his eyebrow. “Commander, she is sedated, she became so agitated it was the only way to easily move her.” His statement was dripping in condescending tones, as though he had to explain to a moron the theory of relativity.
Her outstretched arms ignored, Deanna stepped back to allow them access into the room. Now in better light she could see that the man holding the small girl was the guard that she had earlier gotten the confused emotions from. She was alert to any mistreatment, which would be expected for such a callused society. She didn’t need to worry, Solace was gently laid on the bed. The guard looked down at the empath; it was a challenging look he presented her with before he moved to return to the door. Deanna tried to get a sense of what was happening. It was becoming ever clearer to her that not all of Gringbald’s people were as sinister and evil as Zylon. This man clearly was concerned for the child; she saw it in his face as he put Solace down on the bed.
She went to the child, looked her over, she checked her pulse. When she could detect no drastic problems, she turned to Gringbald, “Why are you doing this? What do you want from me?”
He smiled and answered, “From you my dear Commander Deanna Troi, you will know soon enough. Calm yourself if you do not wish me to have you calmed. You shall change out of that outfit on your own, or with help. I have now fulfilled your requests, so now you shall fulfill mine.” He stood his ground and watched her, waiting for her reaction. She remained outwardly unchanged.
“It is late, we will finish this in the morning.” Gringbald and his man left, the door closed and automatically locked once again.
Deanna stood looking at the door. Now she tapped the communicator Data had put into her pocket. She waited, then tapped it again. Nothing. She went to the bed where the child was sleeping, her dark curly hair tangled and her beautiful little face tear stained. Deanna went to the area set aside for the more personal needs, gathered a few towels and dampened one with enough water to gently clean the tear streaked cheeks.
Solace stirred, she didn’t open her eyes, but sobbed in her frightened sleep. Deanna gathered the blanket and carried it to the bed to cover the child. She sat on the edge and kicked off her shoes, then carefully laid beside the sleeping child. Solace snuggled closely around the empath as if being drawn by her warmth; the small hands encircled Deanna’s neck. The comfort of having another’s warmth was a salve to each.
Deanna began to feel those little needle pricks at her mind. She knew
from where they originated - the Enterprise. She closed her eyes trying
to reach out with her mind, < Will,> she thought /sent. The words she
wanted to say wouldn’t come to her, only the emotion. The need to relieve
his mind, to let him know she had Solace and they were safe, for now, in
the palace. She fell asleep holding on to the comfort of another place,
Will sat alone in ten-forward at a single table along the windows. Beverly thought it looked as though he wanted to be as close to Prakal and Deanna as possible. Guinan came to stand beside her, “He’s right where I told you he’d be. He’s been there for over an hour. I’ve heard things got a little ugly down there.”
“You could say that. Right now, Will feels it is his fault we’re here and Deanna is still down there.”
“And you, how do you feel about how things went down there?”
“Guinan, things became very complicated while we were there. We achieved our primary goal, we retrieved Abeathdor. No one expected the difficulties that that one achievement would bring. Will and Deanna had become very close down there, you could say they rediscovered their relationship.” Beverly smiled a little sadly at some of the memories of the past several days. “The funny thing is that other than the last two hours we were there, it was the most interesting and at times the most surprising experience I have ever had on an away team. Now, we are here safe and sound, and Deanna is there.” The doctor’s smile was gone, replaced by a sadder remorseful frown.
The doctor shifted her attention back to focus on Guinan, “Have you met Abeathdor yet?”
“Captain Picard introduced me to her a little while ago. She’s an interesting lady. Do you have a purpose in asking?”
Beverly sighed, “I’m not sure Guinan, do you think it’s possible that we had walked into a trap, a trap in which she was the bait?” The doctor watched as Guinan showed no surprise at the question.
“As willing or unwilling bait?”
“Do you trust the counselor’s empathic senses? She trusted Abeathdor enough to put her life and that of the entire away team in possible jeopardy. The news around here is that she with Abeathdor’s help, saved Commander Riker’s life, and the story goes, she stayed there allowing you all to return. That sounds as though the one person with any way of knowing the lady trusted her implicitly. Now do you have faith in the counselor’s judgement?”
Beverly conceded, “I see your point, okay, what are we facing? Whose trap and why? Guinan, I know there is more to this. Every instinct in me says so.”
“I just pointed out that Abeathdor wouldn’t be a willing part of the trap. She may have been used, just as you all were.” Guinan gave Beverly one of her well practiced all knowing smiles, then gently nudged her toward Commander Riker.
Will never looked up as Beverly approached his table. He continued staring out at the stars, occasionally gulping his drink.
“Hi Will, I know I don’t have all the answers, but if you would like someone to talk to…” She waited, no answer. She pulled a chair from a neighboring table and sat next to him. “Will, I’m worried about her too, and I’m concerned about you. Physically you have been through a lot. We really have no idea what to expect from the kind of injury and recovery you have experienced. You have to rest and take care of yourself.” Still no response. Beverly decided to go for the jugular, she knew how to get a response and the kind of response she would get. “Will, if you don’t take care of yourself then in a way aren’t you saying you have little regard for something Deanna cared enough about that she would trade her life for?”
“Damn it Beverly, that’s pretty low. You really don’t expect me to sleep now? How can I, when I can’t stop thinking that somehow I left her I the position she’s in.” He looked and sounded down right miserable.
“Why don’t we get together with Data and go over everything. There’s something we’ve missed. Between the three of us I’m certain we can come up with something.” Her optimism was waning, but she did believe that they would come up with a plan of action. She had no sooner finished speaking than Captain Picard and Data walked into ten-forward. She saw Guinan speak to them and direct them to Will’s table.
“Will, I think we are going to go over this again, whether you are ready to do it or not.” She looked at him, then looked closer, afraid the stress and the wound had taken a toll on him. He sat with a dreamy look on his face. Suddenly it struck her where she had seen that look before. Deanna. Beverly motioned to the approaching captain and Data for them to come quickly.
“Doctor is there a problem?” Picard looked from her to Riker.
She motioned at Will; “I’ve seen that look before. If I’m not mistaken, Deanna is trying to communicate with him. That look makes me thing she’s not in immediate danger.”
Data walked around to Will’s side to look directly into his face. “I
believe you are correct Doctor. That is the same catatonic look the counselor
The two pulled chairs over to join the doctor in the waiting for the commander to return to them, hoping that when we did we would be able to give them some positive news. Will Riker closed his eyes then opened them to look at Beverly. “I think she is okay. She has Solace with her in the Palace.”
“Is that it? Nothing else about what is going on?” Beverly was frustrated at not knowing more. “I mean that’s good, but no clues as to how to get them back or why they’re being held?”
“She doesn’t have the answer to those questions, I’m sure if she did she would have let me know. I couldn’t really communicate anything. I think she just wanted us to know she was okay. I get the feeling something is wrong, maybe she’s just tired.” Will sounded better, a touch of relief had entered his tone, but the loss he felt was anything but lessened.
“Number One, I would like you to recount the events as you remember them up the present. I brought Data with me in hope that between the three of you a possible resolution to this situation would be possible. If you prefer to wait until morning and start fresh, that’s fine, however, I’d like to get this business over with as soon and effectively as possible.”
“Captain, sleep is the furthest thing from my mind right now. I think this is as good as time as any to work out a solution.”
“I agree, Captain, now while our memories are still fresh would be somewhat advantageous. Will and I were just discussing doing just this with Data when you arrived.”
Captain Picard almost smiled, “Fine, contact me the minute you arrive at any decision. Will, this shall be resolved shortly.”
The three officers worked late into the night before they were ready to go to the captain with their conclusion. They were agreed on one point, the only point left to debate was when. They had agreed that no matter what game was being played, they had to get Deanna and the child out. Then, with the last Federation member out of any immediate danger they would deal with Gringbald.
The captain was summoned from his sleep to listen to their objectives. “Do you have your course of action, Number One?”
“Yes, sir, we do. First we need to send another probe to the planet. This one would be rigged to by pass their jamming devices; we could rely through the probe. Then we would scan the palace for Troi’s comm badge, Data had given her before we left. If that proves unhelpful we scan for force fields or holding areas, then check for Deanna’s life signs within them. Data can make the needed modifications to our communicators, using a subspace frequency that would not be detected by their systems. Then the easy part -we beam down and right back with Deanna and the child.”
“Who did you have in mind for the away team?”
“Data and myself.”
Picard said nothing for awhile; looking from one to the other, considering and weighing other options that may have gone overlooked. “Doctor, Mr. Data do you agree with the assessment Commander Riker has outlined?”
“I can’t think of anything simpler or with the possibility of a greater degree of success.” The doctor looked as though she would have liked to add a postscript to that but decided against it.
The Captain waited a second longer, when she didn’t continue, he moved on. “Mr. Data, you are in agreement?”
“Yes Captain, we would be quickly down and back. All preparation needed would take place on the Enterprise before transporting down to the planet, minimizing any unforeseen incidents.”
“And when will you begin these preparations?”
“Begging the Captain’s pardon, the modifications to both the sensors and communicators have already begun.” Riker looked at once both pleased and sheepish. “We wanted to make sure we were on the right track, and could meet the expectations within the needed timeframe.”
Picard smiled, “I see. LaForge and Worf are available to give whatever assistance you need. Keep me appraised.” He stood, signaling the meeting to be adjourned.
The three left to continue the finishing touches on their plans to retrieve their crewmate.
Deanna lay awake; feeling somewhat disoriented after falling into a brief but sound sleep. Solace was still curled up tightly against her. The empath lay still, trying to find what it was that brought her out of the deep slumber. The child moved against her, her head against Deanna’s collarbone seemed unusually hot. Deanna placed her hand on the small forehead, then touched her cheeks. Solace was definitely hot; she had to be running a high temperature.
Fear and anger now brought the counselor fully awake and alert. She held the little girl tighter; noticing the breathing seemed labored and harsh. She gently disentangled herself from the sleeping child, slipping quietly from the bed to return with towels and the jug of cool water. She began mopping the small brow and cheeks trying desperately to lower the fever.
Her feelings for both Solace and Gringbald had grown to the furthest degrees of the extreme. The fear for Solace that she had earlier felt was born of the protective love that she had developed at their first meeting. The anger, which threatened at times to consume her, was for Gringbald. In all her life, she had been able to say that she never hated anyone, but now she continually had to remind herself of her professional training. Every time she looked at the helplessly sick child or thought of Will she could feel the anger begin to swell again. Gringbald had exploited anyone and everyone weaker than he, or just someone he perceived as a possible threat.
Solace opened her eyes, looking wildly around the room. Deanna didn’t need her perceptive powers to know the great fear the child was feeling. Deanna watched the wild darting eyes finally rest on her, Solace sat up and tried to go to her. <It’s all right little one, I’m right here. I’m not leaving you.> Deanna thought/sent. She was surprised to find herself using the same term of endearment for Solace that she so disliked when her own mother used it for her. Deanna sat down on the bed, and lifted the sick child on to her lap, the warm arms wrapped around Deanna. The empath held the child against her, while her mind warped through all the knowledge she possessed on this type of illnesses. She deeply wished Dr. Crusher were here, she knew Beverly would, if it were possible anyone could, cure the child. She sat rocking and soothing her, knowing that would never be enough. She knew too, that it wouldn’t be long until Gringbald or one of his henchmen would check on them. She laid her head against the smaller one and thought/sent, < I’m here with you sweetie, no one is taking me from you. Remember I’m taking you to see where I live?>
Deanna kissed the hot forehead; hoping help would come in time. She continued rocking the child in her arms, while she tried to assimilate the bits of information she had, while preparing for the consequences that she feared awaited. As bleak as things looked at that moment, she knew Will and the Enterprise had not deserted her. She only hoped their help would come in time. The victim she had seen at the research building had deteriorated quickly in a few hours. They would have to get help to Solace soon. When the child fell once again into a restless sleep. Deanna laid her gently on the bed and covered her.
Her own clothing had begun to cling damply to her. She went back to the wardrobe and found an acceptable outfit made of a light silky material with long full legs. It wasn’t something she would have picked for herself, but under the given circumstances, it would do. She could move easily in it and the cool feel of the fabric against her skin was refreshing. The room had become warm and close; her hair hung in damp curls, sticking to her face and neck.
<Will, come soon…> she thought/sent, not knowing if Will would know
she was thinking of him, she hoped so. Solace whimpered in her sleep, thrashing
around as though hunting for Deanna. The empath climbed back into bed to
hold the ailing child. She knew without any doubt that whatever Solace
had been infected with, she too now had begun feeling the beginning pangs
to be continued
click here for part nine