Yimar eluded her and took away the drug delivery tube. This was not good. She was just a kid and, even though the alien woman was lying in a hospital bed, she was still the stronger of the two of them. "I hope this is worth it,” she said.
"Worth it." parroted the woman.
It was after normal working hours, but Deb Haddon and Brian Delacroix were working anyway. The Empress had ordered the senior staff to the Bridge and, with no internal communications working, they were forced to go out and knock on doors.
"This is boring." Deb complained. "We still can't find Tucker."
"Should switch the lights off, turn on an ultraviolet. I bet he glows." Delacroix joked. "Say, um, once we're done with this, ya wanna ...?"
"I'm with Masterson,” she said, cutting him off. "Where the hell is Tucker? The Old Man, easy. In his room. Dr. Morgan, in Sick Bay like he was supposed to be. Empress and Mayweather already on the Bridge. So where the hell is Tucker?"
"We didn't look there,” Brian said, indicating the Empress's quarters.
"We're not supposed to go in there after Jun's gone to sleep. No one's allowed to wake him." Deb pointed out.
"Hmm. We better knock anyway."
It was a few hours later.
"Thank you for coming to dinner, Dr. Baden,” Polloria said, sitting down.
"Ah, this does look good." The doctor said, “And how are you children?"
"Uh, fine,” Yimar said, “Chelben, wait for prayers."
"Father, may I lead the prayers?" Treve asked.
"Thank you, Lo, for this bountiful spread. Thank you, Abic, for the drinks. Thank you, Fep, for the table. Thank you, Ub, for staying away."
Everyone nodded and they started eating.
"Doctor, how is it going?"
"Well, it's going well,” he said, “This alien has an interesting brain configuration. A lot about some strange things, a lot of memory devoted to things like protein and something called cilantro."
Treve smiled. "The alien is a food preparer."
"Yes, she even showed Treve how to use a knife and fork." Chawev said, indicating with his own fork. "A good way to bring her in close and get better readings. You did well, my son."
"Well, I support the main purpose here,” Treve said.
"What's that?" Yimar asked, looking up from helping Chelben cut a slice of a large purple vegetable.
"Yimar, all aliens are inferior to us,” Polloria said, “And this is how we understand that better. They come here and we pluck one of them out and bring them here for a few days of study."
"Well, there's more to it than that." Chawev added. "We position our sensors so that we know when a ship carrying a new species is coming. And for a few days before they get here, we use those big dishes – remember seeing those when we went to Point Abic last year?"
"Yes, Father. They were huge." Yimar agreed.
"Yes, that's right. Well, those dishes emit a certain complex series of waves. You can't see or feel them or hear them. And neither can the aliens. But it affects a few of them and whichever one is most affected is our best candidate. And then when they come closer to our system, we make contact, go on their ship, and then we transport away our candidate for a few days of study."
"Does that hurt them?" Yimar asked.
"It doesn't hurt to be transported,” Treve said carefully.
"That's true,” Polloria said, “Then we wipe their memories temporarily and see how quickly they can relearn them. And while they're in such a state, we can access everything they know."
"Does, does that hurt?" Yimar asked, a little scared.
"They're aliens. They're inferior. It doesn't matter whether it hurts them." Polloria stated. "Finish your dinner."
"And I told you, you need to start getting used to calling me Mother."
The senior officers had reassembled in the main conference room. Captain Archer began. "Well, I don't need to tell everyone here that we've got a situation. What's our status? Travis?"
"We've got Impulse and nothing else. And the controls are frozen, it's like they're locked in place. I can't change course; it just keeps going through the predefined pattern."
"Communications?" asked Jonathan.
"We can't talk to anyone but ourselves,” Hoshi said.
"Tactical?" asked the Captain.
"Targeting array is completely offline. No phasers. Torpedo bays are fused." Malcolm stated. "It wasn't like that before; that might have been some sort of an earlier oversight, but it's that way now."
"Transportation?" Jonathan asked.
"Transporter is operational but I can't input coordinates." Tucker said, “Shuttles exist but those bay doors are fused as well."
"Where are we on repairs?" Jonathan asked.
"I've got a crew devoted to Communications." Tripp said, “Unless you want 'em working on something else. Frankly, since we're just kind of locked into what looks like an infinite loop, we could technically throw almost everyone at repairs. Don't need a pilot, don't need Tactical, don't need Communications. We're nothing without our machines and devices, Captain."
"That is a logical course of action,” said T'Pol.
"Agreed. Now, what about our other problem?"
"Captain, if I may." Malcolm began. "Hoshi and I, it was perhaps incorrect of us to do this without permission, but we felt – or at least I did – a bit guilty about the incident with Ensign O'Day's PADD message being read."
"And ...?" asked Jonathan.
"Well, we – it was my idea, so any blame should fall on my head alone – we decided to ..."
"It was my idea, too." Hoshi piped up.
"What idea is this?" asked the Captain.
"We made contact. With Hayes,” Malcolm said.
"How?" asked Tripp.
"We wrote back to him,” Hoshi said, “And he's written back."
"What is this correspondence achieving?" asked Dr. Phlox.
"Can't tell,” Malcolm said, “Here, I'll read what he wrote:
'Malcolm, Hoshi and Jenn,'"
"Jenn?" asked T'Pol. "Is that Ensign Crossman?"
"Yes. We figured she'd want to be in on it. And we, we needed access into their quarters for this to work,” Hoshi said.
"Could you finish reading the note?" Jonathan asked.
"Yes, sir, of course.” " Malcolm read on.
'I tried that Directed Dreaming like Hoshi recommended. And I think it worked, but I can't really tell. I just saw a lot of white. Maybe a white room, I don't know. The other thing was the smell. It was like the stuff they used to use in my old school to clean the carpets. Didn't hear any sounds, don't know if I was anywhere near Lili. Will try again tonight.
"That stuff is vile." Tucker said, “It's sodium- and sulphur-based and it reeks until it dries." he explained.
"I remember that,” Travis said, “Nobody ever came to my schoolroom early because the disinfectant reeked so badly."
"Uh, this trip down Memory Lane is all well and good," Jonathan said, "but what is it telling us? And, Lieutenant – next time, come to me with your plans. I don't disagree with this but I am still concerned about trusting Hayes at all."
"His observations could be faulty or not even present,” Phlox agreed. "It would be rather convenient for him if he is the one who has the Ensign, and is merely working to throw us off the, the scent, as it were."
"Maybe she's at a school,” Hoshi said.
"Are there other places where such a disinfectant would be in widespread use?" T'Pol inquired.
"Yes,” Phlox said, “Hospitals."
Dinner finished, Polloria pushed Yimar and Chelben out of the room so that she and the three men could talk.
"Do you think Yimar understands the second purpose?" Treve asked.
"Probably not,” Polloria said, “What good would it do to tell a fourteen-year-old child of our politics?"
"She may understand more than we think." Chawev said, “But the specifics would likely be troubling to her. I mean, she knows that a High Priestess must voluntarily designate her successor. She also knows that her mother is the High Priestess and that her mother is very ill. She is well aware that this alien – despite how we have dressed and tattooed her – is not her mother."
"I just perform surgery,” Dr. Baden said, “Tell me, how will the rest of it work?"
"We are going to have the Festival of Lo and Abic in two days. We will bring the alien out, and say she is Yipran. Only the closest of the close will realize it isn't my wife. After all, Yipran has been ill for years. We have publicly prayed for her health for half a decade."
"And the alien will point to me as her successor,” Polloria said.
"Yes, of course,” Baden said, “And then what?"
"Well, as you know, normally we would just return the alien. We did that with the Klingon we plucked, with the Andorian and the Vulcan. Things didn't work out so well with that – what was that other one called?" Chawev asked.
"Ferengi." Treve reminded him.
"Yes, yes, nasty little grasping folk. Where was I? Oh yes, the endgame. We would return the alien but it's not so simple. It needs to be obvious that Yipran has died before Polloria can take her place. So we will need to publicly eliminate the alien."
"And of the real Yipran? Won't that become messy and inconvenient?" Baden asked.
"Only if her existence is revealed. She stays in the Main Hospital, patient #116. In perpetuity, if need be. Declared dead. No family. No friends. No visitors other than you, Baden."
"Father, it is still wrong. Whatever, whatever problems you had with Mother, I, I don't know if I can condone any of this."
"But you've condoned plenty of it already, Treve,” Polloria said, “Why get morally squeamish now?"
"I – Polloria – I was a child when you, you came into our lives and Mother became ill. I have done my best to accept you. And I am, I am glad that Mother will not actually be killed, although if she were at all conscious it might be something she'd wish. But killing this alien? Cannot we put her back as we usually do?"
"You never saw it,” Baden said. He was older than everyone, including Chawev. "But I did. When there is no High Priestess, there is chaos. The people are – we are the best species in the universe but many of our people are foolishly superstitious. They want to believe in an unbroken chain of High Priestesses of Lo, served by faithful First Ministers dedicated to Abic. The succession law exists to fulfill that very purpose. And it also exists to keep potential successors from simply killing an installed High Priestess. But the whole system falls apart if the High Priestess dies unexpectedly. And this situation – where the High Priestess is comatose – has never happened before."
"So Mother will never, ever recover?" Treve asked.
"No. Her body will probably live on for a few more years and then it will be worn out and the fading life will finally end,” Baden said.
"It was fortunate that the humans came along when they did." Chawev said, “We could have waited longer, I suppose. But this opportunity has been truly stellar. As if this alien were tailor-made for this very purpose. Almost a pity we can't trot her out for some other purposes before elimination."
"So, everyone's got their marching orders,” Jonathan said, “And Malcolm, give me a few minutes. I have a letter of my own I wish to write."
"By all means, sir."
Jonathan began typing on his own PADD:
You know I can't reveal much about our situation and I expect you can't say too much about how things are going on your end, either. All we can think of is to check public institutions. Follow your nose. Keep us informed.
– J. Archer'
The senior officers were assembled on the Bridge, except for Tucker. Haddon and Delacroix walked in with him, late.
"Nice of you to drop by." Hoshi snarled.
"You won't believe where we found him!" Delacroix crowed. Tucker glared.
"Never mind that,” said Hoshi. "What's our status?"
"No warp drive. No control over Impulse." Tripp said, “No transporter. No targeting array. Can't get torpedo or shuttle bays open. All communications are dead, even inside the ship."
"Repairs?" The Empress asked.
"Having no working sensors now, it's even harder to tell if we're making any sort of progress." Tripp said, “I need bodies to fix it all."
Delacroix giggled at the sound of the word bodies. Haddon poked him in the ribs to silence him.
"Take whoever you need. And don't dawdle. Now, what about Crossman?"
"No sign,” Doug said, “And no good way to look or mount a first strike. I can assemble a strike force and get it ready, but we'd be all dressed up with no place to go."
"Hold off for now,” said the Empress. "Double shifts starting tomorrow, everyone. And everyone is on repair detail. Get the overnight crew in here. Dismissed."
"So, we're agreed?" asked Polloria, after clearing the dishes.
"Yes,” said Chawev. "Once you have been designated as the successor, we kill that alien. That beast is hazardous. Next time, I might not have fast enough reflexes."
"You have good enough reflexes,” Polloria said, grabbing at him.