Will and Data met Captain Picard in transporter room three, there was no conversation between them at this point. Conversation now was moot and would only delay the outcome, and no one wanted that. There was an underlying sense of urgency that prevailed all through the night, and in fact seemed to lurk unbidden in their minds throughout the mission, beginning with the counselor’s first contact with Abeathdor during the poker game.
The two stood on the transporter’s platform, Will nodded to Geordi who took the console to beam them down to the planet’s surface, within seconds their forms on the platform shimmered and disappeared. Seconds later there was a shimmering of matter in the secured quarters that the Starfleet woman and her charge were detained.
She had been propped up in bed, the child lying in her arms. She opened her eyes, “Will?”
He moved immediately to the bed, he felt the need to touch her, he had to touch her, to know it was Deanna. Nearing the bed, he began to feel alarms going off in his head, and fear clenching knots in his stomach; Deanna’s hair hung in damp curls, her eyes held a feverish light, her face flushed with fever. Laying his hand upon her arm he fought the panic raising in him. Data had come around to the other side of the bed; he studied the counselor then looked at the deep concern in the commander’s face, before carefully lifting Solace from Deanna’s embrace.
“No..NO…Please don’t take her.” Deanna attempted to hold on to the child as Data gently gathered Solace from her. The counselor began to sob.. “No, you said I can have her with me.”
“Ssh, Deanna it’s okay, we’re taking her with us to the Enterprise. It’s okay.” Will spoke soothingly as he carefully pulled Deanna into his own arms, holding her against him as the heat from her body penetrated his own.
He wasted no time, the panic evident in his voice, “Enterprise, four to beam to sickbay, medical emergency!” They shimmered and three appeared in sickbay. Data holding Solace was greeted by Doctor Crusher and Seler. Will stood alone with his arms outstretched but empty. Solace was quickly put in an isolation area.
Will hit his communicator, “What happened Geordi, Deanna is not with us?”
“I’m not sure Commander, I couldn’t maintain a pattern, there must be something on her that would prevent the molecular to energy transport. Did you notice anything unusual?”
“I’m not sure, and I’m sure as hell not waiting around to guess.” He moved to open one of the cabinets holding medical supplies, after removing several pieces of equipment he found Data motioning for him to follow him. “Geordi, beam two back to the same location, immediately.”
They found Deanna unconscious on the floor at the exact spot Will had stood holding hr moments before. Both officers were beside her looking for anything that could have foiled their attempt at transporting her back with them. Will fingered the arm band pointing it out to the android, “Data, could this have been the reason?”
Data cocked his head, looked it over then he pointed his tricorder at the band. “Yes sir, it transmits a low band of energy on the same frequency that we communicate on. Once removed, I will attempt to deactivate it.”
Both endeavored to slide the band off, failing that they attempted to open the band. “It must have a hidden catch. Data, can either of these be of any help?” Will held out the medical tools he had borrowed from the cabinet before returning to the planet.
“Yes, Commander, I believe either of these instruments may prove valuable.” Data choose the cauterizing pen, after playing with the fine laser beam until it was at the spectrum he wanted, he nodded to the commander. Will held Deanna’s arm at an angle to allow Data easier access to the band. It took him over a minute to achieve the result he wanted then slightly longer to deactivate the band. He then carried it with him as he went to the only window in the room to break the frame and dislodge some glass to give the appearance of escape.
Will gingerly picked Deanna up, holding her close her forehead against his lips. Data joined him and called to Geordi, “Enterprise, three to beam to sickbay.” This time no one was left behind.
As they appeared in sickbay, Dr Crusher and Captain Picard were anxiously awaiting their arrival, relief very visible on their faces. Beverly moved quickly to Will’s side, running her scan over the unconscious empath. She picked up her hypospray and laid it against the patients neck, then again on Will’s to deliver an antiviral serum. She began giving direction to her staff. Both patients were to have a topical disinfectant and were to be out of the clothing they wore from the planet. Crusher wanted everything analyzed, taking any and all precaution against a viral agent spreading throughout the Enterprise.
Will was standing beside Deanna holding on to her hand. Beverly moved him out of her way, suggesting he wait in her office. He moved back but did not go beyond the next bed. He noticed Solace in that bed, sitting soundlessly crying pointing to Deanna. Will went to the child, held out his hand, she climbed into his arms. He carried her over to the empath’s bed. Deanna slowly opened her eyes, as though on cue, looked around her to see Will holding Solace, her arms around his neck; the counselor managed a tired smile, then fell back into unconsciousness. Solace settled down, sobbing in a hiccuping fashion.
Beverly took her out of Will’s arms, holding her so the child could see her mouth. “She’s okay Solace, look we’ll move your bed closer to Deanna. Now both of you can sleep.” She deposited the child on the bed and prepared another hypospray for her. Will stood between the two beds watching the doctor work. Beverly finished with the examinations, she turned toward Will, taking his arm and walking back to where the captain waited.
“It appears both were infected with a highly contagious virus. Will, I’m putting you in the isolation chamber next to theirs. I’ll need to give everyone in here an anti-viral hypo. Two hundred years ago this would have wiped out the human population on the Enterprise in a matter of days. I’m not sure exactly which strain we are looking at, however we do have a serum aboard that covers the mechanism that reacts with the body’s immune system in fighting the variations that this virus attaches to. We should be fine” She looked at the captain, “If we can get these two through the next twenty-four hours, I expect they will recover fully. The problem is I don’t know how long ago or how potent the sample was that they were infected with.”
She watched as the counselor and the child were settled in the isolation room, “The child’s respiration and temperature are already becoming manageable, so if I were to go by the surface appearance, I’d say the prognosis is extremely positive, considering everything.”
Will’s eyebrows went up, “Considering everything?”
The doctor was clearly exasperated with the situation, “Considering that left in that condition they would have surely died within two days. Considering that the serum is not that difficult to produce when you have live host samples, and considering if that’s true -there is every possibility that they were deliberately infected and were going to be allowed to die.” She stopped speaking to walk closer to t he glass partition into the isolation room. Beverly laid her hand against the glass separating her from her best friend. Will and the Captain exchanged a look, in the commander’s eyes the captain easily read the same emotion that he had just seen in his CMO, except in Will’s there was a hint of retribution.
Beverly turned, “Will, I want you in an isolation room too, I want those clothes off pronto! Nothing that you have come into contact with while on that planet is considered safe.” She watched his profile knowing he was about to object. “I’m not taking anything for granted. Everyone in sickbay is to be given two doses of the antiviral serum. Just as a precautionary measure. Now, Commander, please. You can have the room next to Deanna’s for now.”
“Doctor, I would like a senior officers meeting in one hour. Would that give you time to get your patients settled in?”
“I think so. I’ll keep you apprised.” She caught Picard’s eye then looked over at the commander’s room.
“I’ll have a word with him before I leave.”
“Use the intercom system Captain, no sense continually exposing yourself at this point.”
“Understood doctor.” Picard watched as she whirled through sickbay,
comfortable with the knowledge that she had the situation firmly in control.
Will sat on the edge of his bed, facing the window into the neighboring chamber, when the doctor entered his room. She said nothing as she ran her tricorder over him, when she finished she spoke softly, “The captain has been asking for our reports on the mission, I’ve been putting him off, but now that we are all back, I’m afraid that is not going to work for long. You will have to talk to him. Are you wavering on your decision Will Riker?”
“I’ve been thinking how close we came to losing each other. If I can’t send her on away missions and allow her to perform her job, then we had made the right decision before by not becoming involved again. On the other hand, we could use every opportunity to be together.” Will shook his head, “I don’t know, what’s the answer?”
“You didn’t have a choice about sending her on the away team, she was going. You almost didn’t make it back; you wouldn’t have if she weren’t there. Will, get off the fence, don’t you dare disappoint me - because I shall not let you forget it! Could you honestly go back to the old relationship now? I don’t see how.” She patted his arm, “Remember Lagi’s words to Deanna, ‘Don’t betray your heart.’” She left the isolations chamber. Will lifted his legs up on to the bed, and laid on his back, arms behind his head.
Doctor Crusher kept to herself the fear and concern she had. It had only been a matter of hours since she had last seen the counselor on the planet. The drastic change was indeed something to be reckoned with, the change from healthy to dying was too drastic and too frightening to be waved off with the magical swish of the hypospray. She was reluctant to leave her patients to attend the senior officers meeting. She stood watching the latest readings over the counselor’s head; she appeared to have stabilized. Deanna began to stir as the doctor monitored her respiration and heart, her eyes opened, in a hoarse whispered voice she asked, “Beverly?” as though not trusting her eyes.
“Yes Deanna, you’re home now, on the Enterprise. How are you feeling?”
“Like we were drinking Lagi’s brew again.” She paused, then tried to look around her. “Will….Solace…?”
The doctor held her shoulders down, keeping her in place. “Take it easy, Solace is right here with you. She is recovering very well. Will is next door, he’s fine. You will recover better if you lie still and rest. I’ll be back in a little while. Dr. Seler is close by if you need anything.” Deanna’s eyes closed again before the doctor had the statement finished. Beverly checked once more on Solace, then went to the window to look into the neighboring chamber to see Will sleeping. Then like a mother hen counting her chicks and finding them all in place, she left sickbay to attend the captain’s meeting.
The staff meeting was minus the two officers confined to sick bay, the captain had included Abeathdor once again into their meeting. Beverly had noticed upon her entry that the atmosphere seemed much lighter, less stressful than it had for sometime.
The captain wasted no time in filling in the others on the latest developments. He watched the faces of those around him as he began, “Starfleet has asked that we do all we can to aid Abeathdor to reclaim her throne, there is one obstacle to overcome in meeting that objective. Which means, of course, we must remove Gringbald and his supporters from power and see that they are no longer a threat to the government on Prakal. Now before we discuss that, we need to know a little of the resources at his disposal, and we need to be in a position to protect those of the population he would retaliate upon.”
Picard picked up the object that had lain before him. Beverly had not seen the band before, Data had taken the object analyzed and examined it for contamination, she watched now as the captain handed back to Data to explain it’s origin and purpose.
Data explained that the band was secured on Counselor Troi to interfere with any attempts to transport her back to the Enterprise. He told them of the problem of removing and the dismantling of it. Data revealed the results of his study and testing of the piece. As the band was passed around the table he explained it was made of a materiel that had properties that would allow the band to be easily tracked and why.
Picard stood as it made it’s way into each of the officers’ hands. “You need to see that, although Prakal may appear bereft of technology, it is not. Science has been applied in areas that will benefit and elevate Gringbald and his purposes. The hour is late. Take this information back with you, give it some thought. We will meet again tomorrow to outline the steps we shall take.”
Everyone stood to leave, and within minutes Captain Picard and Abeathdor were the only ones left in the lounge. “Captain, I understand your feelings, but I don’t expect the Federation to do more. I appreciate all that you and your people have accomplished here on my behalf. Perhaps, you have overlooked the fact that Gringbald has already attempted to destroy you. I believe he planted that sickness hoping it would over take you and all aboard this vessel. I do not wish to be responsible for any other tragedies to your people.”
“Your majesty, I have not missed that point. He has failed at least in that endeavor. He failed when he though he killed Commander Riker. Gringbald is playing a deadly game and has lost his opening gambits. He will not be taking us lightly in his next moves. I believe we will see exactly what game it is he’s playing and soon.”
“Your majesty, our counselor found you to have a remarkable mind and
a kind heart, I believe is how she put it. I must say that from what I
have seen I agree with her observations. My own planet has had times of
bloody cruelty. Sometimes it’s because we see just what kind of maniacal
deeds we, as a people, are capable of that brings enough disgust and the
needed strength and determination to stop what it is that is being done,
and decide never again. It appears our imperfections allow us to see the
path we are walking on without feeling the glass under our feet, until
we can no longer walk.”
After a brief glimpse into sleep, Will laid awake in his chamber, finding sleep to be avoiding him as though it were the prey and he the hunter. There was something nagging at him, he sat up to look into the other chamber to see Solace sitting up in bed looking frightened. He didn’t see a nurse or doctor around. He moved quickly to enter the other chamber.
At Deanna’s side he could see she was breathing, he looked closer to see motion under the closed eyelids. He surmised her to be dreaming. He looked back at Solace, she would glance at him, but her attention was clearly on the counselor. He put his hand over Deanna’s heart to feel an accelerated beat. He felt the need to calm her. How? He remembered Beverly describing how she had helped him, possibly saving his life. He picked up her left hand holding it over his heart, and laid his hand over her heart. He began to communicate peaceful thoughts and calming pictures, his mind describing the beauty of the Janaran Falls; a short time passed before Deanna took a deep breath almost like a sigh. Whatever had been happening, seemed to have passed.
He looked over at Solace, she too seemed to relax, and the fear that he had seen in her face had lessened. Will went to her bed to sit next to her, she scrambled to move to his side where she sat cross legged her hand resting on his as they watched Deanna sleep. When it looked like she was once again in a normal sleep, Will moved to put Solace under her covers, she slid out of his reach and shook her head, clearly indicating that wasn’t what she wanted. She looked back at the other bed then at Will. He smiled gathered her in his arms and put her in bed with Deanna. She smiled at him and closed her eyes.
When Beverly returned to sickbay, she went straight to the isolation chambers. Dr Seler was coming out of the counselor’s; Beverly looked at the other doctor’s face, the expression she saw there was a cross between a smile and a question. “What is it? Everyone is still progressing aren’t they?”
“Look in on our patients. I cannot keep the child in her own bed. Twice now, I have moved her back. I leave and she is back with the counselor.”
Beverly looked in, it was true Solace was curled up next to Deanna, both appeared to be sleeping. She looked at Seler, “Thank you doctor, I’ll take care of it.” She knew Deanna had been the only one to communicate directly with the child, and now Deanna was all she knew in this strange place. Beverly went into the chamber; Solace opened her eyes, watching Beverly move around the room. When the doctor walked up to the child she sat up. “You are doing much better Solace, would you like something to eat?” Beverly pantomimed eating.
Solace nodded her head. Beverly went out to the food replicator to get something for her youngest patient to eat. She returned with a variety of foods for Solace to taste. She sat it on the bed initially intended for the child. Solace looked at her suspiciously. Beverly motioned for the child to come over to the other bed. She said, “Come over here and eat. You can go back when you’ve finished.” She went to her and held out her hand; Solace looked up into her eyes for several long seconds before reaching to take the doctor’s hand. Together they went to the empty bed where the small child sat cross-legged and picking up different foods, smelling them before tasting them. She never stopped watching the doctor.
Beverly returned to Deanna’s side to examine her closer, her temperature had begun to drop to within a few degrees of normal, her respiration was still labored and not close to where Beverly wanted it. The doctor looked closer, had the lights brightened over the bed as she noticed some red blotches upon the counselor’s face, neck and upper torso. She again ran the tricorder over the prone counselor making adjustments to the various readings. All in all Deanna had shown marked improvement in the last couple of hours, the blotches were due to collapsing blood vessels, a circulatory disorder that was no longer occurring and the evidence of it would eventually disappear.
Doctor Crusher prepared another hypospray, as she placed it against the counselor’s neck, Solace climbed back into the bed and up to Deanna, watching everything with a protective eye, suddenly their roles had now been reversed, and she was now the guardian. Beverly smiled kindly at her and tried to explain what she was doing. Solace appeared to pay close attention, then nodded giving her consent. “I’m glad you approve of my medical techniques Solace, just so you know little lady, this is my best friend and you and I need to take good care of her.” Solace looked up at Beverly as she spoke, looking very serious as she watched the doctor’s face, then again bobbing the dark head as though in agreement. Beverly stopped to stare at the child, trying to elucidate how she understood or if she understood what was just said to her.
The doctor sat on the edge of the bed, patting the place beside her for Solace to sit there. When the child complied Beverly examined her once again, checking her ears and throat, running a quick diagnostic on her. When she had completed her ministrations she helped Solace under the covers, watching as the child once again snuggled close to Deanna.
Captain Picard listen as Doctor Crusher explained the results of the patients’ examinations. Seated in front of him she went on to explain what she and the counselor had hoped to be able to do for the young child. Picard expressed the thought that perhaps Abeathdor would give her approval for the needed procedure. Beverly agreed to approach her later that day. After leaving the captain Beverly went to her won quarters to, for the first time in a very long time, sleep in her own bed. The rest she found there was deep and undisturbed.
Deanna awoke to the uncanny feeling she was being watched. She reached out with her mind, to discover the intent of the observer to be a mixture of concern, impatience and curiosity. She slowly opened her eyes to see a smaller set of eyes not ten inches away from her own. Solace was lying on her stomach, her head on her hands, elbows resting on Deanna’s pillow, legs bent at the knees and feet up in the air, waiting and watching for Deanna to awaken. When she realized Deanna’s eyes were now opened, her excitement could hardly been contained.
< Hi sweetie, have you been waiting for me > Deanna thought/sent. Still feeling a bit weak, it was easy to remain motionless while communicating with the child. Solace nodded her head, smiling from ear to ear, she put a small hand on either side of Deanna’s face to hold and study the counselor’s features. The empath sensed she was looking for something. She waited for Solace to communicate something back to her, when after a while nothing was expressed, Deanna tried again, < Are you feeling better now?>
Solace nodded. < Do you think it’s time we get out of this bed? > Her answer to that question was to smile and hug the counselor, snuggling close again. Deanna put an arm around her and touched the small face, fearing she may not have recovered fully, but could not detect a fever.
The door to their chamber opened and a familiar male voice proclaimed, “Good, finally, you’re both awake! How are the two hottest women aboard the Enterprise doing today?” Will grinned as he sat on the bed, “I have permission to visit, as long as I follow all the good doctor’s stipulations.” He leaned over to kiss Deanna’s forehead and playfully ruffle the child’s hair.
“Will, we’ve cooled off, haven’t we sweetie?” She thought/sent even as she spoke to Will. Solace, who had moved to sit beside Deanna, nodded and smiled in response to Deanna’s remark. She watched the interactions between the two adults closely. They hadn’t taken their eyes from each other since Will’s arrival.
Deanna looked up at him; she reverently touched his face where, the last time she had seen him, he had been injured. “Are you okay?” she softly asked.
He held that hand in his own, “I’m much better… now. It was entirely too close this time. Imzadi, do me a favor, don’t go about meeting strange men without me.” He smiled as he watched her, he could have told her the moon was made of cheese, and she wouldn’t have cared.
Beverly stood at the window to the isolation chamber watching her crewmates.
She witnessed the way each couldn’t drag their eyes from the other, the
way they touched, she watched the child seemingly almost hypnotized by
them, and she smiled giving them a few more minutes before interrupting
Doctor Crusher entered the chamber, “Good, I’m glad to see everyone
awake and doing much better. I hate to break up a good party, but I need
to run some tests on Deanna that would be better done without an audience.”
She looked meaningfully at Solace. “Will, can you and Solace go for a little
walk, to give us an hour or so?”
Deanna looked at Solace and thought/sent < Would you like to go with Will, he’ll take you for a walk? This is where I live; you will be staying with me while you’re here. Would you like to look around with Will?>
The little eyes filled with tears, < It’s okay sweetie, I’ll be here
when you get back, I promise. You like Will, I know he will take good care
of you.> Deanna took the small hand and pulled the child to her for a reassuring
hug. Solace studied the counselor’s face, then as if contented in what
she found there; she wrapped the small arms around the counselor’s neck.
Will stood watching them knowing Deanna was communicating to Solace. He waited until she looked at him; she read the indecision in his face and smiled. “Will would you take her to ten-forward to see the stars.” He held out his hand to the child, she stood on the bed, looked at him then back to Deanna.
“Beverly, can we get her something else to wear?” Deanna just realized they both had on the blue shifts from sickbay.
Beverly smiled “ How about we change into some play clothes, I have something ready for her in the other room.” She waited for the empath to communicate the change to Solace before reaching to scoop the child off the bed and out the door.
“Beverly has permission from Abeathdor to do the procedure on the child’s throat.” Will sat with Deanna trying to make casual conversation. “The captain is getting impatient about our reports, I have one prepared for him. I ‘d like your opinion on it first.” He watched her waiting for her reaction. He saw none. She laid looking up into his face, never taking her eyes from his.
“For a while, I thought I’d never see you again. Can we work this out, Will?” She sat up to search his face.
He pulled her into a tight embrace, feeling her respond by wrapping her arms around his neck. He whispered into her hair, “We will work out whatever we need to.” He continued to take comfort from their embrace.
Captain Picard had stopped at sickbay, to check with the doctor on the prognosis of the counselor, he found Crusher with her youngest patient outside of the isolation chambers. There he was formally introduced to Solace. The doctor up dated him on everyone explaining the need to keep the counselor a little longer to finish some tests.
“When do you expect to release the counselor and allow her back to active duty, Doctor?”
“I’ll probably release her from sickbay after the tests, pending the result; as far as active duty, I’d like a few days of rest. Solace was about to go to ten-forward with the Commander weren’t you?” Beverly turned to see that the child was no longer with them. The captain looked slightly alarmed at the thought of a small child lost on his ship.
Beverly had to hide her smile, “Jean-Luc, she wouldn’t have gone far from Deanna. Let’s check in with your officers.” She led him back to the counselor’s room. The peered in to see Will sitting on the bed his arm firmly around Deanna and Solace, who was sitting on Deanna’s lap. “Solace doesn’t allow Deanna out of her sight, and is as protective of Deanna as Deanna is of Solace.”
Will shifted to stand as the captain entered the room. “As you were Commander. I came to check on the counselor. Deanna, it’s good to see you looking much better. You had us a bit worried.”
“Thank you, Captain. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be back on the Enterprise.”
“Captain, Will, if you gentlemen would excuse us, I have some business to conclude with the counselor.” Beverly stood holding the door open, hoping to expedite their departure. The captain said his good-byes and went out giving Will a moment to do the same.
Will’s arm around Deanna tightened, “Well, the Captain is waiting for me, I’ll leave a copy of my report in Beverly’s office for you to read when your up to it.” He held her lightly then kissed her on the temple. “Solace would you like to come with me now, we’ll look at the stars, billions and billions of stars, what do you say?”
Deanna thought/ sent Will’s request. The child smiled up at him, as he reached down to scoop her off of Deanna’s lap. At the door he turned back tot he counselor, “We will see you later.” -He carefully annunciated each word for Solace, she smiled. Will blew a kiss to Deanna, then put the child’s hand up to her mouth to mimic his actions. She silently chuckled, he was surprised by the reaction, and looked back to Deanna with an eyebrow cocked.
The empath smiled, and waved good bye to them.
Beverly upon reentering the room found the counselor smiling and very relaxed. “Well it looks like you’re feeling better. I want to run some tests on your neuro-activity and look for any modifications that may have taken place since you left the Enterprise. Have you noticed a decline in our empathic skills?”
“Deanna? What is it?”
Counselor Troi was sitting in looking at the floor, “I’m sorry Beverly, I guess I wasn’t paying attention, what did you ask me?”
Beverly sat beside her, “What is it? What are you thinking about?”
“Everything, how did I get back here? Can you tell me about Will, how is he really? I feel like I need to fill in the gaps.” She looked at her friend, relieved to see Beverly smile, and sensing that there was nothing in her friend that she would hold back.
“Okay, I’ll start with our return to the Enterprise, but I need to get
these tests underway, before Will and Solace return.”
The captain and commander talked as they walked to ten-forward. Solace paid little attention to the two men, she was so awe struck by her new surroundings she watched everything with the amazed look of the very young. Guinan met them as they entered into her realm, taking the privilege of seating them herself and making sure they had the perfect window seats for Solace to view the stars. The child was astounded by the darkened sky lit by the countless stars.
The two men had continued in their discussion of planet and the past several day’s events, when Guinan tapped Will on the shoulder, “I don’t mean to interrupt gentlemen, but if you were suppose to entertain a certain young lady, you must have bored her immensely.”
Will turned to see where Solace had turned her chair to the window and now sat asleep facing the star lit sky. “Captain, would it be possible to continue this later, I promised Deanna I’d bring her back to sick bay.” Commander Riker waited for the captain’s nod, before carefully gathering Solace from her chair. She never opened her eyes as Will carried her out of ten-forward and toward sickbay.
Guinan smiled as she watched them leave. She turned to Picard, “I like some of the changes I’ve seen since the away team’s return from the planet. How long before you return Abeathdor as their Queen?”
“Guinan, we are working on that now. First we have to remove Gringbald and his influence from the planet. Then the queen can decide how to best set up her government.”
The hostess remained standing beside Captain Picard’s chair, “How is Counselor Troi? I understand she has had quite an experience. Rumor has it Gringbald has a special interest in her.”
How is it Guinan, that you have come to have learned so much when I am just beginning to get the reports in from the officers involved?”
“Captain, I’m the hostess in ten-forward, where else would I learn such
things?” She smiled and walked away to complete some duty somewhere else,
Deanna stood beside the doctor watching as Beverly finished with the last test results. The doctor stopped scanning the results to again look Deanna over, checking beneath the eyes, and closely examining the neck and shoulders.
“What is it Beverly? What are you looking for?”
“The virus you were contaminated with breaks down each of the body’s systems. It seems to begin in the respiratory system then the circulatory and probably the renal system, until the body has nothing left to continue to operate, that is if it can hold out that long. It had progressed in you to the circulatory system. The dark red blotches on you are the result of the collapsed blood vessels. I have been keeping an eye on those marks, timing the body’s ability to repair and replenish. Don’t look so worried you are doing fine.”
“What about Solace? I didn’t notice any on her?” At the question the doctor nodded, thinking she should have guessed that the concern she saw was directed toward the child.
“No, neither have I. It may have to do with her immune system having been exposed to different viruses, or perhaps the illness hadn’t progressed that far, she also recovered much quicker than you. It could also be the difference in her system and yours.
“She has been keeping an eye on you for me.” Beverly laughed softly at the mental picture. “When ever I came in to check on you or give you a hypospray, she was right there. I tried to explain what I was doing and asked her to watch for more of the marks, she was to report to me right away if she saw anything. I don’t know how much she understood, but she took to heart how ever much she knew.”
Deanna smiled remembering coming awake to the child’s intense scrutiny. “Beverly when are you prepared to begin the procedure on Solace?”
“Today, while you are still here. I don’t think she’ll do as well if we wait too long and you’re back to your duties. When Will returns with her, I’ll sedate her and begin.” Beverly noticed the look of concern on Deanna’s face. “She’ll be fine, this is not a serious procedure, other than what it will do for Solace.”
Deanna nodded, “Thanks, I know. I guess I just think of all she’s been
through. A lot of adults would have problems dealing with a reality that
harsh. She has a resilient spirit doesn’t she?
Will choose that moment to carry a sleeping child into sickbay. He gently laid her on the bed. “Am I too early- have you finished the tests?”
“Yes, we’ve finished, we were just talking.” Deanna walked over to stand beside Will. She stood looking down at the peacefully sleeping child.
“How did the tests go, Doctor?” Will was Deanna as he asked.
“The virus is no longer active. It has left its mark and will take a little time for her system to completely rebound. I’ve been testing her empathic and neuro-system for any abnormalities or growth, then matching those results with Deanna’s enhanced skill levels. I’ve been able to gain some valuable insights into what had previously been nothing more than educated guesses. It looks as though some of those new abilities may be permanent by the new synapses whose patterns seem to be imprinted in the cerebellum and the cerebral cortex.”
“Are you saying that Deanna will continue to have those abilities? How do you think that happened?” Will seemed to be more concerned than the patient was. Deanna was lost in her thoughts, appearing not to be paying any attention to the discussion around her, about her.
The doctor looked baffled; “I have no idea. It may have something to do with the planet itself or the exposure to Abeathdor’s more powerful telepathic skills. I hope we have some answers before we leave Prakal.” Both turned their attention to the counselor.
Deanna held one of the small hands in her own hand. The smaller fingers held on hers reflexively. She looked at the doctor, “Are you going to start now?”
“It would be less traumatic for her if I would; there would be no time for any apprehension. Let me prepare a hypospray for her, then we’ll move her.” Beverly left them in the chamber to prepare her equipment for the procedure.
Will watched Deanna with Solace, “The captain and I were discussing ways to capture Gringbald…” Will hesitated, it was his hesitation that drew Deanna’s attention.
“Go on Will.”
He knew when he looked at her; she understood why he would ask what he had to ask of her. “Deanna, because of Gringbald’s interest in you, knowing he would react to you, your presence…would you be willing to go back down to the planet? You would not be alone; Worf, Data and myself would be there. We would not let anything happen to you.”
She shuddered at the thought of meeting Gringbald again, but the request would not have been made if the captain had not thought it necessary. “Yes. I’ll go back with you.” She put her hand over his reassuringly. She knew that if this relationship were going to work, Will would need to know he could approach her with the responsibilities that fell into her area of expertise. She would do her job as a crewmember.
“When does the captain want us?” She asked knowing the answer would have to be soon.
He smiled down at her, “When we can persuade the good doctor to release you from her custody. Today, the latest tomorrow.” Deanna’s heart sunk at the thought of returning so soon, but she tried to let on to Will that it was no problem. The forced smile never reached her eyes; it barely touched her lips.
Doctor Crusher and a nurse entered, she went to administer the sedative and prepared to move Solace into surgery. Will volunteered, “I’ll carry her, where are we moving her to?”
Beverly quickly covered her mild surprise by directing him; she stayed behind with Deanna for a moment. “This shouldn’t take too long. I’ll repair her vocal cords, then check the membranes in the ears. If she were an adult, we wouldn’t need to put her to sleep, but considering everything, this would be the easiest and probably the kindest way. She’ll wake up with a little bit of a scratch throat; otherwise she wouldn’t know anything at all had happened. You’ll be here with her, which should comfort her. Why not wait in my office.”
Will met her in the office and handed her the report to read. “I have a meeting with the captain. I’ll see you later.” He kissed her lightly on the forehead before leaving.
The entire procedure took slightly under thirty minutes. Deanna read Will’s report and began one of her own. When the doctor had finished she and Deanna sat together in her office catching up on the events of the past couple days. Deanna had just filled her in on their short but deadly stay in the palace, when Doctor Seler notified them that Solace was beginning to come out of the sedation..
When Solace opened her eyes, she immediately looked around her, instinctively knowing she was somewhere new. She searched for something or someone familiar, when she caught sight of Deanna and Beverly she began to relax.
< Hi there, did you have a good rest? You feel asleep looking at the stars, Will brought you back here. > Deanna thought/sent. Solace nodded, rubbing her throat.
“Would you like something to drink?” Beverly held up a glass with a straw in it ready for her to drink. The doctor aided her in the use of the straw, “Your throat may be a little sore now, but that will go away by tomorrow. I want you to make a humming noise, like this.” Beverly demonstrated the sound. Solace looked at her suspiciously.
Deanna could sense the child’s distrust, she thought/sent the same information Beverly had given, then held the child’s hand to her own throat, then hummed. She could sense the child’s reluctance.
< Solace, Doctor Beverly would never do anything to hurt you. I bet you didn’t know that you will be able to make noises just like we do? You will be able to talk too, but you need to warm up to that, so we need to help you practice humming. What do you think, think you can do that if I do it with you? >Deanna had Beverly demonstrate the sound once more. Solace looked from one to the other, then holding out a hand to Deanna, for the empath to sit with her. Once seated beside the child, Solace stood on the bed to hold the empath’s face looking intently into the counselor’s eyes again seeming to read or look for something hidden in the dark pools. Once she had pulled back the counselor continued, “Sweetie, nothing is going to hurt you here, I wouldn’t let it. Please try for us, okay?”
Solace thought about it, then put one small hand around her own throat and made a squeaky sound that almost passed for a hum. “Very good, can you practice for me? I need to talk to Beverly for a few minutes. I’ll be right over there. You can see me from here.” Deanna again verbalized, watching closely to see if Solace understood. The child nodded.
When the two women had gone a little distance, Deanna asked about the child’s hearing. “I think she can hear, the membranes were thicker then they should have been. I thinned them, which should make a difference. Keep working with her.”
“Beverly, I’d like to take Solace back to my quarters. I think we’d both rest better there.”
“The only reason I’d let you go now is because I know you can’t rest in sickbay without being sedated, so I’ll permit it under two conditions.”
Deanna smiled, “Okay, I think I can live with that, name them.”
“You come in once a day for a neuro scan, so I can keep an eye on the patterns I found today. The information we gain may help in understanding more of the brain function in empaths with applications for telepaths. I want to make sure there is o set backs. Number two: you don’t go back on duty until I release you. Okay?”
“Yes doctor, I’ll do my best. You will know when I report back for duty.” Deanna didn’t look her in the eye, knowing she could well be back on the planet before the day was over.
They went back to find Solace practicing her squeaky hum. The sound was getting strong and slowly losing some of the squeak. “Guess what sweetie, we are going to my quarters. Where you will be living with me while you are here. Okay?” Deanna’s enthusiasm quickly caught on. Solace jumped off the bed, grabbing hold of Deanna’s hand.
They talked to Solace about the Enterprise and all she could see and do on a starship as they walked to Deanna’s quarters. Solace walked between them, holding their hands looking from one to the other as each talked. When they stepped inside the quarters, Beverly watched the child as she walked around carefully touching things that were new to her.
“Deanna, why do you think she holds your face like that when you talk
to her?” Beverly softly asked as they watched the small girl continue her
adventure through the counselor’s rooms.
Deanna smiled and shook her head, “ I wonder if she may have understood Lagi different times when she mentioned about being able to read my eyes. I have been trying to get a sense of it. What I do get is that she is looking for an answer to her feelings. Like when you ask someone - Are you telling me the truth? She is looking to see that I am.”
The door chime sounded at that moment. Solace looked directly at the door, surprised and a little alarmed. Beverly caught Deanna’s eye as she went to Solace. “It’s okay, that sounds means someone is outside. Look!” Beverly released the door. Will Riker entered to stand in front of Solace.
“Hello ladies, I brought something I think a certain young lady lost.” He stooped down until he was almost at eye level with her. He had one hand hidden behind his back; slowly he brought the hand in front of him. He held out the closed hand to Solace, and slowly opened his fingers. In the palm of his hand was one of the little wooden figures of the lightfoot.
At first the child didn’t touch it, she looked from his hand to his face. Her smile was warm and went from ear to ear. “I believe this is yours.” He reached for her hand turned it so it was palm up, then placed the figurine in it. She hugged his neck. Will replied softly, “Your welcome.”
Solace walked off with the prize to sit on the floor a short distance from everyone. “She may still be drowsy, I imagine she’ll sleep well tonight.” Beverly watched her a while longer. “Deanna, I don’t envy the decisions you have yet to make. Things may get very complicated for you if she is returned to the planet.”
Deanna sighed, “I really haven’t given it a lot of thought, but I suppose being back with Rankeer would be best.”
The three adults sat in the living room making sounds for Solace to imitate. She thoroughly enjoyed being the center of attention. She would make a noise then point to one of the adults to imitate her sound. They would guess what animal made that noise. She would smile when the others laughed at their own attempts. It wasn’t long before she could hardly keep her small eyes open, after climbing up to sit between Deanna and Beverly, she laid her head on Deanna’s lap, and closed her eyes.
Captain Picard’s voice sounded, “Commander Riker, will inform the doctor and the counselor that there will be a senior officers meeting in one hour?”
Will looked at the expressions on the two women’s faces before answering, “Aye sir, we’ll be there.”
Deanna looked down at the sleeping child. “Who can I get to stay with her? I can’t leave her alone?”
“Let me talk to Guinan, she met Solace earlier in ten -forward.” Will stood to leave then came back to where they were sitting. “Do you want me to put her to bed for you before I leave?” Deanna surprised nodded, helping to reposition the child’s head so he could pick her up more easily. Then she followed him into the bedroom.
“We’ll need another sleeping compartment. I’ll see what I can do.” He lowered the sleeping child into Deanna’s bed, then stood back as she removed the shoes and covered her.
Deanna held the small hand and carefully opened the fingers to see the wooden animal still in clutched in the palm. She gently closed the fingers back and tucked the hand under the covers. She looked up at Will, “That was sweet of you to give her that. I think your timing was perfect. It helped smooth the road through this transition.” Deanna kissed the sleeping child on the forehead, turned to see Will standing directly over her. She sighed, “Is there anyway we can be certain of her safety when it’s time to return her to the planet? Is there some way to see to it?”
There is no guarantee on anything, you know that. We can se that they are well taken care of and we’ll do all we can to secure Abeathdor’s reign.”
“Will we be going straight down to the planet after this meeting? If anything happens, Solace will be looked after, you’ll take care of that?” Deanna’s eyes pleaded with his own.
“Nothing is going to happen.” He gathered her in his arms. “Why would you even think that? This will be the easy part, we will be back her before you know it” He paused to hug her to him, he thought how fragile she felt in his arms. “Deanna, you really aren’t up to this yet are you?” he didn’t wait for her reply but led her back to where Beverly was waiting.
“What’s wrong?” She could tell by the look on Will’s face that something was not right.
“Would you take a look at her, Doctor. I don’t know that anything is wrong, I just want to make sure.”
“I’d rather do this in sickbay where my equipment is. Deanna, do you feel there is something wrong?”
“I’m fine, just a little tired.”
“Why don’t you let Beverly take you to sickbay, I’ll contact Guinan from here. I’ll wait until she comes. I’ll meet you in either sickbay or the observation lounge. “ Will walked them to the door, leaving no room for debate.
When the two left he communicated with Guinan. She sat in Deanna’s quarters for fifteen minutes after receiving Will’s request. She was surprised by their following conversation, a condition she was had almost forgotten was possible to feel in dealing with humans
Deanna looked over her shoulder to see Will watching them from her doorway. She saw him turn and reenter and her door slide shut. “Is it my imagination or do you think Will was a little pushy back there.”
“He’s just concerned. This mission may have unnerved him a bit, at least where you are concerned. I know it had unnerved me, and I find it hard to believe you were unaffected by it.” Beverly caught the frown on the counselor’s face, deciding a change of topic was needed she asked, “I think Solace is doing well. It shouldn’t be long until she’s behaving like any other four year old.”
“I don’t think she’ll ever be a four year old, she’s like a miniature adult in many ways, but I look forward to seeing a little more of the child in her.”
They reached sickbay to find the captain waiting for them. “I understand the counselor is not fully recovered?”
“I’m fine.” Deanna wondered what Will had told him and why. She could only sense concern from the captain.
“That’s why we are here, to make sure there is no other problems. I would be concerned if she wasn’t showing signs of exhaustion.” Beverly talked as she escorted the counselor to a biobed and began running a tricorder over her.
“I expect a report at our meeting, Doctor. In the mean time do what needs to be done for the counselor’s health and well being.”
After the captain left, Beverly stopped what she was doing and turned to Deanna and demanded, “What is going on? Are they trying to send you back to the damn planet? Is that what all this fuss is about? I’m not going to permit it. You are not ready for that kind of exertion yet, not physically and not emotionally. They have no idea what that last trip was like for you.”
Counselor Troi did not need her empathic skills to feel that frustration and wrath flowing off the doctor, the skill she had allowed her to be buffeted by wave after waver of the emotions. Deanna closed her eyes to try to withdraw to begin centering herself, and to give Beverly time to do the same.
The doctor finished the examination without saying another word. When Deanna could sense her mood change she opened her eyes. Beverly was watching her, she held her PADD out for Deanna to look at. She took the PADD from the doctor. “Do you see the vital signs? Now look at the brain activity chart. What do these results tell you? Come on, you’ve had enough medical training to understand this.” Beverly waited, watching Deanna’s reaction, she knew Deanna understood the possible ramifications.
“So I’m fighting an infection, we knew that.”
“Tie in the brain activity What do you have?” Beverly’s anger rarely came out in loud angry shouts, she maintained a quiet tone, like now. Most times it was the quiet anger that was the worst to be accosted with. She didn’t wait for Deanna’s answer, but continued with her diagnosis. “It could be a form of meningitis.” She waited, now she did see the other woman show a shocked expression. “It isn’t but it could have been. I’m trying to tell you that you have to take care of yourself. It is most likely a combination of the virus you were infected with ant the effect of prolonged use of the neuroblockers.”
The two women were the last to arrive at the meeting. Everyone was seated and waiting. “Doctor, Counselor,” Picard acknowledged their arrival. “It has been decided that to install Abeathdor to her throne, we must take Gringbald and Zylon out of the picture. We could set a trap for him; we would need something that would draw his attention. What ever the trap is - it will need to have a powerful pull on him. Remember we need to take Gringbald and Zylon. We know little of each of them. What we have learned is that Zylon is the sadistic torturer that held the queen. We know Gringbald is a shape shifter, not a native to this planet. We have reason to believe neither is empathic.
“We have concluded that the most effective trap would include the counselor.” Captain Picard paused, and waited attentively for a comment. The doctor was clearly going to object. The counselor showed no reaction. He continued, “To adequately protect the counselor, we need to understand why Gringbald has developed such an interest. Deanna, what can you sense of his feelings toward you.”
Captain, I have had a difficult time sensing him at all. What I do sense is mostly a curiosity. I feel he was testing me with his demands. I have no reason as to why he would do that.”
Picard looked sharply at her, “What demands? Give me an example.”
“When he took me to the room at the palace he demanded I walk into the room. When I stopped he said I would be in that room on my own or with help. Then later he demanded I change into one of the outfits he supplied. I ignored him; he didn’t press it until later when he brought Solace, he repeated that demand. When I ignored it a second time, he still didn’t pursue it. Now in looking back, I can see that with each demand he tacked on a threat of being physically forced to comply with the demand. He never asked that I do something it was always a demand.”
Picard’s interest was aroused; he was beginning to wish the meeting had not included all the senior officers. If he could feel the discomfort from Crusher and Riker, Troi would certainly be aware of it. He asked the question he needed the answer to. “You did what he wanted though, in the end?”
“I obviously went into the room. I believe he would have had me carried in. I did change clothes, but that was later and for my own comfort. He didn’t see the result of the change.”
“Doctor, do we still have the clothing the counselor was wearing when she was brought into sickbay?”
“Yes, Captain, we kept everything to be analyzed. It is in a decontaminate analyzer. We were looking for information on the virus.”
“Have you the results from you analysis?”
“It won’t be complete for another two hours.” Beverly paused, glanced at Commander Riker, then the counselor before asking, “Captain, when are you planning this return?”
“I was getting to that Doctor. It would appear that to be most effective it has to happen very soon. We have lost forty-eight hours since the counselor’s return; it can’t wait much longer. The plan we’ve worked up and found to have the best chance of succeeding quickly includes the counselor returning to that same room in the palace, dressed as she was with the now redesigned arm band. We will have the band functional as a communicator. There will be people within transporting to her at all times. Hopefully the interest in her still exists. If it does, this will certainly peak it. Both men need to be captured on this mission. There will be little chance for another try without involving innocent bystanders. I want this wrapped up quickly.” The captain looked at the counselor then back to the doctor, “Is there a medical reason this can not happen now, doctor?”
Beverly caught Deanna’s eye; she tried to imagine what she wanted for an answer. Beverly knew going back down had to cause some anxiety for the counselor, but Deanna never let her know exactly how she felt about it. She turned her attention back to Picard. “I don’t want her to go back down there now or later. The results from the examination I just completed prove that she has not fully recovered from her previous visit. She is still fighting some of the after effects of the virus. She is emotionally and physically exhausted.”
“At what point do you think she would be able to help us? If you had to give me a time frame, Doctor?”
“I would like another twenty-four hours.” Beverly knew that was not acceptable, but she had her own purpose for that answer.
Picard looked to his first in command, then answered; “We need to move much quicker than that for this plan to work.”
Deanna interrupted, “Captain, perhaps eight hours of rest would be all I needed. That would make it possible to have the clothing and the armband prepared, and the medical routines done. If that would give Doctor Crusher more time to do what she needs.” Deanna looked at Beverly for an affirmation on the revised plan.
The doctor was surprised by the counselor’s remark, only because that was exactly what she had in mind. First she wanted the captain to appreciate the fact that Deanna shouldn’t be going at all, but if needs be they could work it out. Apparently Deanna was still excelling in her telepathic skills. The doctor answered the captain; “Yes eight hours of rest would be very helpful. That would mean at the minimum of twelve hours until the next away team leaves.”
“Very well, Mr. Worf, LaForge and Data will work with Commander Riker on the security details. Doctor will you have Counselor Troi at sickbay?”
“No, I’ll work with her in her quarters where she can rest and further recuperate.”
“Good. Counselor, if anything else develops, you and the doctor will let me know right away. If for any reason you feel you are not up to this, I want to know.”
Deanna answered quickly, “Captain, I’m sure I’ll be ready, thank you.” She knew the doctor was watching her, she also knew without looking at her, she would have on her face the bemused expression she frequently wore when someone behaved in a manner she expected them to behave in.
After the meeting was over Beverly waved to her telling Deanna she would meet her in her quarters later. The counselor nodded then walked to the turbo-lift, as she entered she became aware of someone hurrying to enter behind her. She spun to se Will as he slipped in before the doors closed.
“I’ll see you to your quarters.” He gave direction to the computer, watching her with raised eyebrows. She had to smile back, knowing exactly what was going through his mind. “Computer halt.” The turbo-lift came to a stop at his command.
Deanna went to him, putting her arms around him; she gazed up into his eyes.
“It seems we never have a moment alone. How do you really feel about going down? You don’t have to go. We can find another alternative.”
“I just want to get it over with.” Her gaze never wavered. He lowered his lips to touch hers. Their reactions surprised them both.
Breathlessly he pulled away, “How much rest did Beverly say you needed?”
Deanna laughed, “I’m not feeling so tired anymore, but I don’t think they’ll let us keep the turbo-lift and Beverly is probably already at my quarters.”
He smiled down at her, pulling her closer he said, “Then we’ll just have to make due for now.” As he again lowered his head and they resumed their previous activity.
Suddenly the captain’s voice was heard, “Number One, if there are no mechanical problems, and you and the counselor have finished, the turbo-lift has other uses…” His voice sounding stern and a bit bemused.
“Understood, sir. Computer resume.”
They laughed in each other’s arms, then pulled apart to look business like as the doors opened on the counselor’s deck. They both had the look of getting caught at something when the doors opened and the two found themselves looking at the captain and the doctor.
to be continued
here to go to part ten