The Children of Vaal (Revised)
As Akuta began to recover from the heavy number two phaser stun he had received on the Enterprise-D, he felt dazed and disoriented. He heard voices around him, but could not understand what they were saying. Also, all the fight he had in him seemed to have been drained away. He felt tingly all over, as if his whole body had gone to sleep and it was as if he was being attacked by invisible fire ants as his senses returned. Soon, he felt a gentle hand on his back as he attempted to sit up and make sense out of his new surroundings. He was on a cot in their sickbay. The touch hurt and he winced and recoiled with pain. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the hand belonged to a Vulcanian, who now seemed vaguely familiar. Frowning in puzzlement over this new development, he began to wonder what had happened. Where was he? This certainly did not look like it was Elba Two. He recalled that the Klingon on the Enterprise told him to expect the staff of the famous mental hospital to be mostly human. As he got his bearings a little more, he then realized that he was on a Romulan ship. The one who looked familiar spoke to him gently.
"Welcome to my ship, my old friend." Thalen greeted with a relieved smile. It had taken the Vaalian a couple of hours to regain consciousness from the phaser stun and the anti-psychotic medication he had been given was beginning to wear off as well. "Are you all right?"
Akuta peered up at him, still not comprehending the Romulan's speech, but he sensed he was among friends. He was still a little apprehensive, though, still not knowing where he was and what these Romulans wanted from him.
"Give him a few more minutes, Commander. The phaser stun takes a while to recover from. Also, the humans on that planet he was on gave him a shot of some kind. It might be affecting his mind." Another voice said softly. Akuta then realized that he was definitely not on Elba Two. The one who had spoken was obviously a medical officer.
"Understood, Doctor." Thalen looked down at his Vaalian friend in concern, but was eager to learn more about Starfleet's new super weapon. Vaal's incredible secret was not common knowledge among the Romulans, so they naturally assumed that the humans had attacked Sirol's ship, drained it of all it's power, and killed the crew. They were not aware that Sirol and Toreth knew that the planet called Vaal was like one vast Borg sphere. They did not have time to transmit their findings to the high command while they were being attacked by Calandan technology. Akuta studied the face of the commander and then it finally dawned on him that he was looking at his Romulan friend.
"Yes, my friend. It is I. Are you all right?"
"I...guess so. Where am I and what am I doing here?"
"You are on my ship. We are bringing you back to your home world, where you belong. The Federation had no business bringing you to that poisonous ball of dust they call Elba Two."
"You must not bring me back to Vaal, Thalen. I have been banished from my home world. If I return to Vaal, I will be executed."
"We have removed your mark, my friend. They can't hurt you if you do not bear the mark of a criminal."
"You know our law well, Thalen. However, you forget that I am somewhat famous among my people. Tattoo or no tattoo, I will be recognized."
"You can come back with us to Romulus."
"And do what, old friend? No offense, but I do not belong there either. I have a feeling your people would not accept me. I look too much like our enemies who invaded our world and nearly destroyed Vaal."
"I understand." Thalen then paused in thought. "You have many choices. You could go to Nimbus Three or anywhere else in the galaxy. You could, for example, go to Deep Space Nine and stow away on a shuttle craft through the stable wormhole and go to the Gamma Quadrant."
"Those aren't bad ideas, my friend, but I don't relish the thought of becoming a wanted fugitive, pursued by Starfleet for the rest of my life, constantly looking over my shoulder. The humans murdered our people when we were friendly. Can you imagine what they would do to me now that we are at war with them?"
"Then what do you want to do?"
"Lend me one of your shuttles, equipped with a cloaking device. I will then track down the Enterprise and kill their captain. Or, you can return me to the poison planet. If it was this easy to escape from them, it should be just as easy to pick them off, one by one. Then I could take control of that facility and free those imprisoned there. Then, we could all band together and destroy the Federation, paying them back for what they did to our people."
Thalen smiled in amusement.
"You have a vivid imagination, my friend, and I like the way you think. However, I think your first idea has a better chance of success. I will gladly give you a cloaked ship and have one of my officers accompany you. His name is Bachra* and is an excellent navigator. He has had some dealings with humans as well and knows how to speak with them. He will help you find Picard's ship. The craft we will be giving you is so small that they won't be able to detect it until it's right on top of them."
"Thank you, Thalen." Akuta studied his friend's face for a moment. "I get the feeling you want to ask me about something."
"You are right, Akuta. Do you know who killed Sirol and his crew and drained their ship's power?"
"Yes, I do. The ones who created Vaal did it."
"Do you know why?"
"No, but my guess is that the creators felt threatened by your ship's presence in our territory. By the way, you took a terrible chance by invading Federation space. I think you should high tail it back to your own territory as soon as possible."
Suddenly, the Q appeared in his usual fashion.
"Akuta, it would be a mistake to attack the people on Elba Two. I erased their memories of you and purged their computer banks about you being committed there."
"Certainly, oh powerful one, you could restore their memories of me."
"And why would I want to do that?"
"If anything, they would have the right to know what they will be dying for."
"All right. I will restore their memories. Before I do that, though, I want to have a little fun with Picard and put a little fear in the hearts of his crew by letting them find out that you have escaped their custody and that the folks on Elba Two have lost their knowledge of that fact. I would enjoy seeing those savages panic at that. In the meantime, stay here on Thalen's ship." Once more, the Q disappeared in a flash of light. He did not want Akuta to know that he rather liked Picard and did not want him to be harmed or killed. He decided that it was best for Akuta to be recaptured and then to restore the memories of the Elba Two staff.
On the Enterprise-D, Lieutenant Tola had been released from sickbay. Nurse Ogawa had been asked to guide her to her quarters and stayed with her for a time, just in case the Andorian security officer needed anything else. She had been given medical leave so she could recover fully from her head injury and regain her eyesight. Tola smiled, reading the concern for her in Alyssa's thoughts.
"You do not have to stay, Alyssa. I will be all right."
"Are you sure, Lieutenant?"
"Quite sure. In fact, Captain Picard is on his way to converse with me. He has some questions on his mind."
"Very well, Lieutenant Tola. If you need anything, just tap your com badge. I wouldn't want you to hurt yourself."
"Don't worry, nurse Ogawa. It would not be the first time I stumbled around in the dark." As she said this, her door chime sounded. Tola stood at attention a little too quickly, grasping onto the top of an antique wooden chair beside her bed. "Enter, sir." She heard the door slide open and the captain coming in. Tola felt a little dizzy, so she steadied herself with the chair. Alyssa looked at her with concern and Picard smiled a little.
"At ease, Lieutenant. Please feel free to sit down again if you are feeling dizzy."
"Thank you, Captain." Tola felt for the seat of the antique chair and sat down on it. It was painted white and had lovely instant stencils of fairies and flowers on the back.
"Nice chair, Lieutenant."
"I like it a lot, sir. I picked it up from an antiques dealer on Risa on my last shore leave. He told me that it was at least four hundred years old and belonged to a not-so-famous Terran writer. It has been fully restored and is very sturdy."
"It is amazing that it is in such good condition. Alyssa, you may leave. I have some important matters to discuss with Miss Tola."
"Aye, sir. Remember Tola, if you need anything, please feel free to contact me."
"Thank you, Nurse. I will." Picard watched as Ogawa nodded respectfully at him and left.
"She can be such a mother hen sometimes, but I enjoy her company."
Picard chuckled in agreement. "I know why you are here, sir. Would you like some Earl Grey tea?"
"Thank you no, Lieutenant. I would like to ask you about the Romulans. Do you think they all know about Vaal's incredible secret?"
"Toreth and Sirol knew. I am not certain about the rest of them." Suddenly, she gasped and stood again. "I sense a presence nearby. I believe it is Akuta!"
"How is that possible, Lieutenant? He's incarcerated on Elba Two." The captain tapped his com badge as she shrugged, but she seemed certain of her perceptions. "Picard to Counselor Troi."
"Deanna, our Andorian security officer is sensing a presence. Are you sensing it too?"
"Yes, sir. I was just about to contact you. Data has been detecting sensor fluctuations on the stern of the ship between the nacelles. The readings indicate the possible presence of a small Romulan ship under cloak."
"Go to yellow alert and try to hail the occupants. I will be right there."
"Acknowledged, sir." The yellow alert sounded. "Well, Tola, it looks like we have some Romulan intruders. Stay put. We can handle this."
"Understood, sir. In my present condition, I probably could not be of much help anyway."
"I agree, Lieutenant." He stood, went to her door, and took one last look at her. She read in his thoughts that he found her fascinating and she smiled as he left.
As Picard stepped onto the bridge, he realized to his astonishment that Tola had been correct. The face of Akuta was on the main viewing screen. The Vaalian was accompanied by a Romulan centurion who looked very familiar. They had decloaked their small ship.
"Yes, Captain. It is I. I am here to take revenge for the killing of my son and my daughter-in-law. With the help of my new friend the Q, I escaped from that prison you tried to trap me on." Akuta stood and nodded to his Romulan companion, who then quickly operated a transporter and then swiftly put the small craft's cloaking device back up. Akuta materialized a moment later on the bridge, a Romulan disruptor in his hand. Deanna tensed up, terrified, certain that she was going to be killed too. "Prepare to die, Picard."
"Akuta, wait just a moment. Before you pull the trigger, you must know that you will be killing an innocent man."
"Innocent? The captain of the Enterprise is not innocent. You are a murderer. You not only killed Shalana and my only remaining son, but your kind wiped out three quarters of my world's population when you deactivated our god machine."
"I did not do that, Akuta. Kirk did. Besides, I wasn't even born yet when he made that error in judgement. Also, Shalana is very much alive and your god machine has been restored by the Calandans."
"I don't believe you. You are lying."
"I would not lie to someone who is about to kill me for a crime I did not commit."
Selar suddenly materialized behind Akuta and calmly gave him a neck pinch. As he crumpled to the deck, she picked up his dropped weapon and deactivated it, noticing that it had been set to kill. Deanna and most of the bridge crew breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thank you, Doctor." Picard said gratefully. "I am glad you are here."
"Tola told me of your difficulty. It was indeed fortuitous that I arrived at the correct moment. Random chance seems to have operated in our favor. Are you all right, Counselor? You look a little pale."
"I'm...fine, thank you, Doctor. Just a little startled. I thought I was going to be killed too."
"Take him back to the brig and use all security precautions."
"Aye, sir. Mr. Worf, will you accompany me, please?"
"With pleasure, Doctor."
"Captain, what about the Romulan pilot?" Troi asked. "Are we going to take him into custody?"
The Q appeared again.
"You won't be able to do that. I whisked him back to Romulan territory."
"Q, why did you help Akuta escape? It's obvious he needs professional help." Picard asked, watching as Worf and Selar dragged the Vaalian off the bridge and into the turbo lift. As they entered, Akuta vanished from their grasp in a flash of light.
"I did it because I felt sorry for him and his people. However, I did not want to see you killed. You give such great speeches and you are the closest thing I have to a friend. However...he was right, you know. You humans don't follow your own laws."
"It was Kirk who violated the prime directive, you strutting pompous ass, not I!" Picard said angrily, frustration also evident in his voice and mannerisms.
"Temper, temper, mon capitan. Don't blow a gasket. I have just restored the memories of the Elba Two staff about Akuta and returned him there so he can get the help he needs. Be warned, though, Picard. If there is another blatant violation of your prime directive like this one, I will not be as nice."
"I will not be intimidated by you, Q, nor will I admit to any wrongdoing on my part. Kirk obviously made a lot of stupid mistakes during his career as a Starfleet captain, but I have no intention of repeating them. Now get off my ship and get lost!"
"All right, Picard. I will leave. However, I will not promise never to return. Your trial for humanity's crimes will continue until you are no longer considered a dangerous child race." As he once again vanished in a flash of light, Picard sighed with frustration and annoyance.
Akuta was astonished to find upon awakening from the Vulcan neck pinch that he had somehow been returned to Elba Two. He still thought of killing all the humans in the asylum, but at the moment, he just did not have the energy. It now seemed like a pleasant fantasy to him. However, he, of course, did not believe for one moment that Picard was telling the truth about Shalana being alive. He also could not figure out how he returned to the asylum so quickly. He decided all of it must have been some kind of crazy dream. The Elba Two staff knew it would take a long time to convince him that Shalana was alive. They were fully aware that their new inmate was a dangerous unbalanced criminal, so he was placed in the top security area for the most violent of the asylum's inmates. Akuta would not be able to hurt anyone, for they had given him another shot of Leonardzine.**
* "The Enemy"
** I decided to name Leonard McCoy's wonder drug after him.