"First he killed my father, now he's killed my mother...there is nothing left for me in this life."
Wesley fumbled with his mother's back-up communicator, switching on the universal translator. "Hatha, I am so, so sorry about your mother." Wesley tried to convey his heartfelt sympathies through a view screen, and a fuzzy one at that. "Where are you now? Are you safe?"
"No! No one is safe until Petral is dead."
"But...but I thought Del was protecting you. He said he would take care of you, I heard him say it," Wesley was speaking so quickly that he was beginning to trip over his words. "Captain Picard is down there. If I can get a message to him-"
"Unless your captain is prepared to kill Petral, there is nothing he can do, Wesley."
"Where are you?" He asked again desperately.
"Preparing for Ascension. I'm at Petral's home, being indoctrinated by his other wives. The ones who are still alive."
Indoctrinated? Wesley had never before seen anyone as frightened as Hatha, and it made him feel helpless. "What can I do?"
"I cannot marry Petral. I will die first."
"Captain Picard needs to know this, Hatha. He's down on your planet right now. There's some kind of ceremony going on tomorrow."
"Del's coronation," said Hatha. "But there is something more...tell Picard and the others to prepare themselves."
"I cannot be certain...but they must beware."
"What will you do?"
"I'm going to kill Petral," Hatha said with a look of determination.
"No! Don't risk yourself," Wesley pleaded. "There's got to be another way to get yourself free. Can't the authorities do anything?"
"Petral is the authority," she sobbed. "There is no one who will help me."
"I'm going to help you," Wesley stood up and started pacing back and forth. "I just...I just need to figure out what to do."
"We must be married. That will prevent Petral from taking me to the old hospital for my final indoctrination. Once you marry me, it will be illegal for him to take me into his household. He won't be able to touch me again."
Wesley froze in mid-step. Marriage! His mind screamed. I can't get married! He didn't know what to do yet. He was confused and had to get his head clear. "I can't just beam down there, Hatha."
"Please find a way, Wesley."
About an hour later...
"Wesley, what's wrong? What's happened?" Beverly Crusher sat anxiously staring at her son through a small secure viewer Yar had provided her with. She shouldn't have left him alone on the Enterprise.
Wesley looked frightened and confused. Suddenly the words just came tumbling out of his mouth. "Mom, Hatha called me. Doctor Petral has her imprisoned in his house with a bunch of other wives, and he's going to force her to marry him, and he's going to bring her to some hospital and, and-"
"Wesley! Slow down," she implored him to calm down even as the thought of Petral harming that poor girl caused her stomach to turn. "She's at his house?"
"Yes, she said she's being indoctrinated by his other wives, but I have no idea what that means."
Beverly was grim. "I'll tell the Captain. Something must be done."
"Mom, I just want to help her, but-"
"Wesley, as much as I know you-you care for Hatha, this is serious, dangerous business that I don't want you involved in."
"Mom, I can't just leave her down there. I have to do something. She told me we were bonded together."
Beverly rubbed her eyes and tried to remain calm. "Wesley...I'm going to ask you a personal question, and I need you to be honest with me. Did you have sex with Hatha?"
"I found you both lying in your bed with your door closed, Wesley! What the hell am I supposed to think?"
"It wasn't like that. I mean, it wasn't really sex...or, um..."
"I asked Captain Picard to talk to you. Did you tell him what you did with her?"
"Uh...Mom, I don't get what this has to do with anything!"
"Of course you don't. Because you're fifteen!" She rolled her eyes up at the ceiling. "Wesley...as much as you want to help Hatha, as much as you care about this girl, Doctor Petral, is a sick, sick person, and this is an alien world. I don't want there to be any connection to you as far as Petral is concerned."
"Like my DNA or something?"
"Yes, like your DNA. Petral is a scientist who is intent on biological experimentation. He's dangerous. I need you to be honest with me on this, Wes."
Wesley shook his head, looking as though he was about to cry. "Mom, I can't talk about this kind of thing with you right now. It's my business."
She put her face in her hands and tried to calm herself down. Finally, she looked up at him. "Are you going to be alright in our quarters alone? I'm not sure how long I will be down here."
He nodded, still looking emotional, but attempting to look older than he was. "I'm okay, don't worry."
"It's my job to worry, young man. Ever since you were born..." She smiled a little and blew him a kiss. "I asked Data to check in on you. I hope you don't mind."
Wesley brightened. "Data? No, that's cool."
She smiled as his positive turn in mood helped her own. "Okay. Sounds good. "I'll call you tomorrow-"
"Wait, Mom...promise me you'll be careful tomorrow. Hatha said to tell the Captain that something else besides the coronation is going to go down tomorrow, but she doesn't know exactly what."
Beverly felt yet another chill course through her veins. "Alright. I'll let him know."
Picard sat uncomfortably on the couch in the common living area. The guest suite was immense, and it was hard for him to imagine staying in here by himself, as Del had originally planned. Although he recalled Del had expected him to have brought his wives. He supposed it was the Ciapathian cultural point of view, but he found it more than a little disturbing.
"I don't like it here," Rolani complained through the translator.
"I see." Picard raised an eyebrow and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. "At times, a leader must undertake a task that she doesn't like...for the good of her community."
"You are God. You can take us away from here."
"Actually no, Rolani, I can't do that. You see, I am under orders to be in this place. Like you, I don't care for it here, but I must still carry out my duties to the best of my abilities."
"My duty is to destroy the Brethren. Now that I know who the Brethren are, and that they are all around us, all I want to do is kill them."
Picard rubbed his chin and glanced over at Counselors Troi and Allen who sat nearby. "Rolani...I understand your feelings, but you are not here to kill the Brethren, and neither am I. If you cannot understand that, you will have to return to the Enterprise."
"You are an unjust god! We would kill in your name, but you do not appreciate our love for you." Rolani suddenly picked up a pitcher of water and threw the contents in his face. Then she stood up and stormed off.
Wiping the dripping water from his face, he could not help but notice that Sarah Allen had a small smile upon her face, and for some reason, it almost sent him through the ceiling with anger. He got up, swiping uselessly at the wet stain on his uniform. "I am glad that you find this so amusing, Counselor."
"Captain, we should talk about what happened here," she called after him.
"Talk amongst yourselves, I am going to go and change my damn shirt," he snapped before leaving the room.
"Sarah," said Troi. "Captain Picard is clearly on edge right now, and he has a great deal of responsibility on this mission."
"To attend a coronation? What does he have to do? Bow? Engage in some polite diplomatic banter?"
Deanna pushed back her irritation. Allen had no idea that the Enterprise had traveled to Ciapathia for reasons more dangerous than attending Del's coronation. "Nevertheless, I have to ask you to back off a bit."
Counselor Allen looked at her former colleague with a note of surprise. "Deanna, if there is one thing I taught you, it's that when a breakthrough with a patient is near, you need to be persistent."
"But you also taught me to know when to stop applying pressure," Deanna replied calmly. "And I'm sure I do not need to remind you that Captain Picard is not your patient."
Sarah leaned back against the couch. "Fair enough. But he has an interesting psychological profile," she said. "You can't blame me for probing a bit."
Troi shrugged and picked up her tea, trying to gain some comfort. "I'm more concerned about Rolani's increasingly volatile reactions. Like Captain Picard, I question the benefits of having her along for this mission. She has been damaged by the very people we are here to honor tomorrow."
"She clearly believes that the Ciapathians and Brethren are one and the same," said Sarah skeptically. "But that hasn't been proven, has it?"
"Where did Captain Picard disappear to today for two hours, Sarah?"
"He apparently didn't remember-"
"Exactly. He didn't remember, which should disturb all of us. We are supposed to be guests of the Ciapathians, but I urge you to remain cautious while here."
"Let me guess, you can't tell me the real reason we are here, Deanna. The more information I have, the better I can do my job."
"I can't tell you any more than you already know," Troi confirmed. "But I can tell you that I think Rolani and the rest of the away team would be better off if she is back on board the ship."
"Yes, but it's not your choice to make, is it Deanna?" Counselor Allen got up. "I'm going to go and talk with her."
Picard had unzipped his uniform halfway before remembering that he could not simply replicate another one. The new officer jumpsuit was irritating in more ways that one, but mostly he missed being able to adjust his shirt if needed. There were hidden pockets which he also found bothersome. Now he had just a smooth, rather skintight uniform. Annoyed, he began to rummage through his bag, pulling a new one out. That was when his communicator beeped. Data to Captain Picard. He turned and sat down on the bed, and tapped his badge. "Picard here, go ahead."
Captain, I am still assessing the information you provided me with this afternoon and will provide you with a report tomorrow. However, I wanted to update you on Lieutenant LaForge's status.
Picard caught his breath for a moment. "Yes?"
You asked me to scan the capitol city for humans. The scan had to be calibrated appropriately since its primary function is only capable of determining whether a being is humanoid or not. This is complicated by the fact that Ciapathians are generally classified as a humanoid race. The current modulation allowed me to-"
"Mr. Data, please get to the point."
Data hardly missed a beat. -allowed me to identify within a 95% degree of specificity whether an individual is a human being.
"What did you find?"
Approximately ten thousand human beings are currently inhabiting the city, sir.
Picard grabbed his new uniform and twisted it in his hands. His mind began to fill with thoughts of violence toward Del. How long had Del known about this? For a few moments, because of his horror and outrage, he was unable to speak. "Ten thousand," he echoed.
Yes, Captain. The number is unexpected.
"Would you even be able to identify Geordi's genetic makeup?"
In theory, yes. I performed a sweep using his last known transporter profile but was unable to obtain confirmation of his presence within the city limits. As you know, any scan outside of the city is disrupted by significant solar interference.
"If he was deceased...would you be able to locate his body using this scan?"
Data paused. It is possible, but unlikely, sir.
After he had signed off with Data, he finished getting dressed, now deep in thought. He took a hypospray to calm his nerves. Afterward, he poured himself a glass of water and then sat reading an update from Admiral Nechayev. His eye caught on a few sentences halfway down. Just last night, Starfleet Command authorized a shipment of Andurine from Ciapathia to Earth. This is laying the foundation for our own cloaking technology, Jean-Luc. There will be no going back from here if we abandon our founding principles so easily.
He continued to read on when he heard a knock at the door. "Come," he said.
Beverly rushed in looking as flustered as he had ever seen her.
He stood up abruptly. "What's wrong, doctor?"
He watched as she began pacing the small room, running her hands through her hair anxiously. Finally, she stopped in mid-step. "I'm worried about Wesley," she blurted out. "I made a decision to stay here, despite everything, but I'm worried he is going to be harmed, or do something irrational."
He glanced at his rumpled uniform which was still laying on the bed and reached down to toss it out of the way. "Please sit down," he offered. He poured her a glass of water. "Here," he said, gently pressing the glass into her hands. Shakily she brought it to her lips, watching him as she drank. She looked like she had just run a few miles.
"Thank you," she said, putting the water down next to her.
He sat down again slowly, gesturing for her to do the same. "Now...what is going on with Mr. Crusher?"
"I can't sit down. I'm too agitated," she argued, wringing her hands.
"Alright, then I'll stand," he said quietly, and got to his feet again.
"I don't want you to see me this way, Jean-Luc."
She shielded her eyes from him. "You're the one who's supposed to be adrenalized right now, not me."
He gave a wry smile. "Thanks to you, at the moment I am heavily medicated." He sobered quickly, watching her closely. "Why do you believe Wesley might be harmed?"
She raised her eyes to his and she looked so vulnerable that it shocked him. "He told me that Hatha is being held prisoner by Doctor Petral. He's going to force her to marry him. Somehow she got through to Wesley on a secure channel."
He looked down. "I'm not at all surprised...how horrible. Petral must be stopped...but I can assure you, that nothing is going to happen to your son. Neither one of us will allow that to happen." He clenched his jaw and moved to sit back down on the bed. "What else did Wesley say?"
"He just desperately wants to help her but doesn't know how. And...I'm afraid that because he may have been intimate with her that Petral will somehow use that to get to him, and hurt him."
Picard raised his eyebrows. "Intimate?"
"He talked to you...did he tell you anything about what he...what he did with her?"
He frowned. "Beverly...even if he had, the things he said to me were in confidence."
She looked at him with astonishment. "What? If he had sex with that girl, you wouldn't tell me?"
There is no way Wesley slept with that girl. He put up his hands. "Beverly...I think you're reading into this a bit."
"Well, since he won't be honest with me, I'm just trying to get inside the mind of a fifteen-year-old boy."
He couldn't help but make a face at that. "Oh...you don't want to be in there, believe me."
She suddenly smiled at him.
"I was just imagining you as a fifteen-year-old boy."
Oh, I don't like where this is going. He put his hands on his knees and stood up. "I understand your worry, Beverly. But Wesley is safe on board the Enterprise."
"Thank you for listening to me," she sighed. "I'm actually starting to feel better."
He nodded. "Good."
"What are we going to do about Hatha?"
"We are not going to do anything. I, on the other hand, am going to talk to Del, and try and get Hatha out of this imprisonment."
"And just like that, you've made a decision."
He was incredulous. "Yes. Just like that."
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Have you always been this decisive?"
He shrugged. "Since I was perhaps... fifteen."
To his surprise she slapped him playfully on the forearm. "Are you poking fun at yourself, Jean-Luc?"
He smiled, but said nothing. Internally he was still reeling from her touch. Suddenly distracted by an avalanche of impure and irrational thoughts, he backed away, looking around for his medicine vials. Panic began slowly to set in as he realized that he'd run out. "Damn it," he exclaimed.
She put a hand on his shoulder. "What's wrong?"
"Please...don't touch me," he requested as calmly as possible. "The medicine is wearing off and I must have used the last vial. Damn it!" He shouted again.
"Captain, I have more. Don't worry." She reached out to touch him again, but quickly stopped in mid-motion, remembering his plea. His hormones are going crazy. Like a fifteen year old boy.
"I'll go and get the rest of the vials."
Thanks for all your reviews and jokes and continued interest. Good to hear from everyone. Be well and safe! -PP