"Once, when the universe was young, there was nothing and no one but Lo. But she was by herself, and lonely. So she broke off a piece of herself and that became Abic, Treve said, They became lovers and their joy was heard throughout the young universe."
Lili was hot. It was stifling on Point Abic.
Treve continued. "But they did not know, that they lived at a crossroads, and that there were others. Night people."
Now Lili pricked her ears up.
"At night, Lo thought she was with Abic. And Abic, he thought he was with Lo. But Abic was with Ub. And Lo was with Fep. From dusk until dawn, Abic thought he was loving Lo, pleasing her, being one with her. But it was tricky Ub instead."
"And it came time and Ub and Lo both became heavy with child. After they gave birth, it was clear that Abic and Fep were not the fathers they thought themselves to be. They made sure the next time, and Ub and Lo became pregnant again. Those four children were banished to the stars by their parents, and we see them today in our sky, Treve said.
"Let us pray, Treve said. The entire audience became silent.
Lili was nodding off. It was just too hot.
Doug was sitting in the back of the shuttle with Deb Haddon and Brian Delacroix. Travis and MacKenzie were piloting the shuttle.
Doug was beat. Double shifts were doing him in. He closed his eyes for just a moment.
"You're back!" Lili called out.
"You couldn't hear me last time, when you were in the room with that, that sick woman, Doug said, taking her hand in his.
"Doug, I was awake then. Strange. Doug, I think the connection is unraveling."
"Yes, I think you're right. Where are you?"
"On the summit of a place called Point Abic. I'm supposed to point to a woman named Polloria when I get a cue."
"Hmm. Do you think this is the final connection?"
"Yes, Lili looked at him with shining eyes.
"Regrets?" he asked her.
"None from my time with you, she said, I feel I should be telling you something strategic, but all I want to do is kiss you."
Doug only hesitated for a moment. "Lili, I love you." He then kissed her more forcefully than either of them expected.
"Wake up, Old Man!" Deb shoved him in the shoulder, hard.
"Ha, Old Man, are you crying?" Delacroix asked mockingly.
"No, 'course not. Just allergic to something. Probably MacKenzie's aftershave. You're not supposed to bathe in it, Mac."
"Someone likes it that way." MacKenzie said.
"Almost there, Travis said.
"Well, here it is. Room 116." Tripp said, pushing the door open.
"There is no indication of a human in the area." T'Pol said.
"That's definitely not the Ensign, Phlox said, I, I wonder what we are supposed to be doing here." he clicked open a communicator and contacted Captain Archer.
"Well, interesting, Jonathan said.
"Captain, I don't believe it would be ethical for me to treat this woman. So, what should I do instead?"
"I think, Phlox," Jonathan said, "that instead you need to diagnose her. Archer out."
"Very well, Phlox said, But I am beginning to feel this is like Fenna all over again."
"What's Fenna?" Tripp asked.
"Fenna is not a what. Fenna is a who. Or, at least, she was, Phlox explained. "Commander, kindly investigate what those tubes are for while I examine the, the patient."
T'Pol did as instructed and began tapping on her PADD.
"Here, set down here, Doug commanded, indicating a small clearing.
"No, here, Travis said, bringing the shuttle down in a more forested area.
"Whatever, Doug muttered quietly under his breath.
"And now we will contact the others." Chawev announced to the crowd. "Be with who you desire."
Lili could hear people whispering and murmuring around her, and they were mainly answering, "Be with who you desire."
Everyone but Lili closed their eyes. She could suddenly hear not one, not two, but thousands of voices. She looked around. No one's mouth was moving. Their eyes and lips were closed, yet she could hear them. Yimar's voice: "Grandfather, I miss you." Baden's: "Come to me, Miva. It has been too long." Chawev's: "It is time."
Then Lili noticed that Treve didn't have his eyes closed. Her eyes met his briefly and then he stared straight ahead, avoiding her gaze.
The murmuring became a louder buzz, and Lili noticed that Baden appeared to be aroused. A quick glance confirmed that a lot although not all of the men were in a similar condition. The buzzing became louder and lost all coherence until it was one long shriek of undefined noise. She covered her ears and could not block it out. It stopped suddenly. "Group sex?" she asked Treve quietly.
"Not exactly." he whispered. "Can't explain right now."
"And now, Calafans!" Chawev called out. "Yipran is back! And she is here to designate her successor!"
"You'll need to stand up now, Treve said to Lili, helping her up.
Jennifer looked around the packed venue. "I choose, hmm, Treve!" she called out, giggling.
"You can't choose him. It has to be a woman!" Polloria was seething.
"Oh. Well, Jennifer spun around and pointed. "Her."
It was slow going in the dense forest. Doug and Deb Haddon were in front, followed by MacKenzie and Travis. Brian Delacroix was bringing up the rear.
Large animals trotted all around them. "Looks like game to me." MacKenzie aimed his phase rifle.
"Focus, Mac. Our objective is the summit, Doug said.
"How do you know where to go, Old Man?" Deb asked.
"I just, I just know. C'mon."
There was the softest of clicks. The sound of a safety catch coming off. Doug had a split second to hit the ground.
"Fenna is, was, well, there really isn't an equivalent human word for it. She was not my daughter and not my niece. She was my wife Feezal 's child but not mine, not biologically. But I cared about her, of course. She was family. She was very young and very, very foolish, Phlox began.
"Lots of young people are." Tripp pointed out.
"To be sure, Phlox agreed. "She met a man who was thoroughly inappropriate for her. And, and it did not turn out well at all."
"It is my understanding that Denobulans wed three persons, not one." T'Pol said.
"That's almost always the case. But in very, very rare instances, a one-to-one bond is formed. That would not have mattered so much, except that Zoph turned out to be violent, Dr. Phlox said, Here, let's take this tube off the patient's leg for a moment while I get a reading. Zoph, well, he beat Fenna. He beat her so severely that she ended up precisely this way: in a persistent vegetative state. Feezal agonized over the decision for years. And Zoph didn't make it any easier for her, and blocked her at every turn. We finally ended up taking him to court for control over Fenna's medical future. We, fortunately, we won our case and Fenna was taken off life support machinery. She died peacefully or as peacefully as is possibly, given the circumstances. But Zoph. I am not, I like to think I am not a vengeful person. But ...."
"But you can't help being angry that it's him who's alive and not her." Tripp said.
"Precisely, Phlox said, Hand me the scanner, please."
Lili stood and blinked a few times in the heat. "I, I don't understand. Why does there have to be only one High Priestess?" she asked. "Why can't every woman be a High Priestess?"
"Because it's not done that way!" Polloria was apoplectic.
"Wait, wait." Chawev said, The, the government will debate this important question. We are, we are adjourned."
"How very interesting. And disturbing, Phlox said.
"Yes." T'Pol added.
"Wanna clue me in?" Tripp asked.
"These tubes are delivering almost 100% pure potassium to the patient." T'Pol said.
"Well, isn't that a good thing? It's like food, isn't it?" Tripp asked.
"In smaller doses, yes. And I don't pretend to know Calafan physiology that well, Phlox said.
"But?" Tripp prompted.
"I would say, in my considered medical opinion, that the excessive amounts indicate a far different motivation. Do you concur?" he asked T'Pol.
"I do, she said.
"And ...?" asked Tripp.
Dr. Phlox said, "I believe this patient is being poisoned."
"Father, what shall I do?" Yimar asked. Jennifer was still pointing at her.
"Uh, stand up. Let the people see you. Acknowledge them, and see if they will accept you."
"It's not supposed to be a child!" Polloria yelled.
Yimar got up and the crowd roared.
"What does that mean?" she asked, a little shakily.
A shot was fired.
Doug knew not to get up, but he did have to lift his head in order to see what was going on. A hand shoved him down again for an instant, and another shot was fired.
He raised his weapon.
"Don't bother, Old Man. I took care of it." Haddon said, putting her weapon back.
It was Delacroix. She'd blown away most of his face. He was writhing on the ground, clearly incapable of recovery.
Doug looked at Delacroix. "Fifteen, he said, and prepared to fire.
"No. Allow me, Travis was grinning and, before Doug could stop him, he had dispatched Delacroix, by grinding his boot onto what was left of the injured man's neck.
Doug winced and looked away for a second.
"I get to move up, right?" Deb asked.
"Yeah, Doug said grimly. "That's the rule."
"Good!" she chirped.
"Hey, Haddon, Travis said, coming over, not even bothering to wipe off his bloodied boot. "I got a job for you." He licked his lips.
"Oh?" she asked.
"Yeah. Gotta have it right after. This won't take long, Travis said, reaching for her.
"We're on a mission, remember?" Doug bristled. "Have your fun later. The Empress will oblige, I'm sure."
"Since when are you so formal?" MacKenzie said, I'm sure she'll do you, too, Old Man. That is, if you're capable."
"We don't have the time, Doug spat out. "Oh and when we're done, and we've got Crossman back, do me a favor? I figure you owe me, Travis, for letting you finish Delacroix off, like I know you like to do."
"Depends what it is, Travis said, annoyed that his fun had been spoiled, but recognizing that he did owe a small favor.
"Yeah." Haddon said.
"Let me stay out here on this rock. Tell the Empress you fragged me. That way, you can get a promotion, too, Mac. No muss, no fuss. You can even tell her I cried for mercy and anything else that gets you your jollies. But me? I'm stayin' here."
Calafans were pouring down the hillsides. Malcolm and his team couldn't make any headway. "Let's rendezvous with the other shuttle." he suggested. "We're too outnumbered to do anything here."