There was a sound at the door. Tripp looked up. "Show time, I guess."
Four Calafans came in. "What are you doing to this patient?" asked one of them.
"I could ask the same of you,” Phlox said, “Do you know that this patient is here because of a crime?"
The ride back to the hospital was slow and torturous. Treve sat with Jennifer. She sat close to him, looked him up and down constantly.
"Get that beast back now." Polloria had commanded. Now she was silently angry.
"Polloria," Chawev began, "perhaps there is a way out of this. After all, Yimar is still a young girl. She will need guidance. Which she can get from you."
"I have been waiting for years for this. And this inferior just, just, I can't speak,” Polloria said.
"Five years or so." Chawev said.
"Eight." Polloria corrected him.
"Eight?" he asked. "Where are you getting eight from?"
"Oh, don't be a fool,” Baden said, “The foundation was laid before, oh, forget it."
"Foundation for what?" asked Jennifer.
"For today. For what you completely messed up,” Polloria said.
"Wait, wait, what foundation?" Treve asked.
It was a slow ride back. Treve sat with Lili. "Can you tell me now?" she asked quietly.
He nodded. "The meditation you saw, the group meditation. We do it every year. Actually, we do it every night, but as a group a few times per year. Today, for the festival, was one of those times. We, we make contact with the night people. Did you see those big dishes on the side of Point Abic?"
"Those are amplifiers. The night people, they can be seen any night, but it's when we all get together and are near the amplifiers that we get a truly clear picture."
"Who are you contacting?"
"Lovers, mostly. I don't have a lover, so I kind of bowed out. Of course a child like Yimar wants to talk to her grandmother or someone like that. And Chelben doesn't even know anyone; he is a bit too young to really be able to act as a conduit."
"Wait, did you say you have nighttime lovers?" Lili asked.
"Quiet over there! I have a headache!" Polloria snarled.
"Treve, I have one, too, a lover in the night,” Lili said softly.
He was caught up short. "That's – that's not supposed to be possible among inf – uh, other species."
"A crime?" asked one of the Calafan doctors.
"Yes." T'Pol said, showing him her PADD.
"There are tens of thousands of milligrams of potassium being pumped into this patient." The doctor read off. "No wonder she is comatose."
"Captain, I have a reading,” Jenny communicated to the Bridge.
"Go ahead,” said Jonathan.
"Those dishes all dotting up and down that hillside? They're all, they're made from the same alloy as the disc Commander Tucker and I found in Lili's bed."
"Is it exact?" he asked.
"Almost,” she said.
Back at the hospital, Chawev, Treve and Polloria held Jennifer down while Baden held a weapon to her head. "There. That oughta keep you, beast,” Baden said.
Polloria paced furiously. She took off a little jacket she'd been wearing and threw it on a chair. "Get those children out of here. There's been a change of plans."
Treve shepherded his little sister and brother out of the room.
"Tell me about the eight years, Polloria." Chawev insisted.
"Eight,” Polloria said, counting them on her fingers. "Three to get things started and prime you. Five with Yipran in that bed downstairs."
"Primed?" asked Chawev.
"Listen," Jennifer said, “I may not know you people much at all, but I can recognize a scam when I see one. She came on to you, right? Shook her tail at you or whatever it took. You weren't doing so hot with your wife then and so you went along with it, and you ended up bonding, which really threw a wrench into things at home. You're doing her and you're keeping it from your wife, who's getting sick and nobody can explain it. Am I right?"
"More or less." Baden admitted.
"And you even make it look good by having another kid. But it goes haywire when your wife gets really sick. And you're incapable of just doing the deed and finishing her off, so the wife lingers. On and on and on – that's your five years, right? But those previous three or so? That was this one, and this one," Jennifer nodded first to Polloria, and then to Baden, "getting everything ready. Some kind of slow method, something no one would notice or detect. Your wife would probably just look tired. Which makes this one," she nodded again to Polloria, "even more attractive to you. After all, your wife is getting older looking, and your girl just looks hotter and is gonna do you even more, 'cause your wife can't any more. Right?"
Chawev looked ill. "You said Yipran would be able to live."
"It's your indecision that has created this situation, Chawev,” Baden said, “An injection of tricoulamine would end everything and would possibly be considered merciful under the circumstances."
"You said there would be chaos." Chawev pointed out.
"I did,” Baden said, “But this stringing it all along is not much better. It was your idea to pull in the alien and have it all tie to the festival. It is your responsibility that the alien wasn't as, as pliable as expected."
"What should we do?" Chawev moaned.
"This situation cannot be sustained,” Polloria said, “But dispatching this one in public is not gonna happen; there's no time. It'll have to be done today. Then you'll bring Yimar in front of the people and we'll, we'll take her under our wing. Nurture and guide her and tell her what to do."
"Your regular life is over, Chawev,” said Baden. "You'd best go along with this or we will speak with the government. You'll be removed as First Minister and your little ones taken from you."
"So, so we should, should get rid of this one now?" Chawev asked.
"Yes. And the person to do it is Treve,” Polloria said.
"There's too many of them!" Travis yelled.
"We're outnumbered. Fall back!" Doug answered.
"To where?" Haddon asked.
"There's a building back there. The Main Hospital,” Doug said, “We'll go there."
"How do you know about that, Old Man?" asked MacKenzie.
"I just do. Now, quick march!" Doug commanded.
"So we are in agreement?" Polloria asked Baden and Chawev.
"Yes. I will get my son back in here to do the deed. I am," he said to Lili, "I guess I am sorry you were caught in this. But, you see, you cannot be kept alive. You know too much about this. You are proof that this happened. The rest of it, I will fix somehow, get the government to reject your proposal of having virtually infinite priestesses."
"It doesn't have to be this way,” Lili said.
"Yes, it does,” Polloria said while Chawev left the room.
Treve was left alone with Jennifer once he'd shown he would hold the weapon at her head. "I, I'm not a killer."
"I know,” Jennifer said, “But I am."
Malcolm clicked his communicator closed. "Room 116,” he said, “Looks to be this way."
"Treve, I don't think this is in your make up,” Lili said.
"It's, it's not. But you can read between the lines here. This is going to unravel my family."
"What about your mother?"
"My mother? She has been effectively dead for half a decade. No matter what the reason is, she's just gone."
"Who's been treating her? Other than Baden?" Lili asked.
"N-no one." The light dawned. "Do you think another doctor could ...?"
"It's worth a try, isn't it?" Lili said, “Haven't he and Polloria been lying to you and your Dad all along? Why wouldn't your mother's prognosis be a lie as well?"
"J-Jennifer," Treve said, "that is your name, yes?"
"I have an idea. Can you, do you think you can run?"
"Only without this heavy gown on. There's the hospital shift. I could run in that." She dropped her dress to the floor.
"I, huh, I'd best focus,” Treve said, “Here, you can put this on, too." he gave her Polloria's jacket.
"A little large,” Jennifer said, “Now what?"
"This wall is an outside wall,” he said, “Once I'm done, you shoot straight through it. This is the second story. You can jump down, probably not injure yourself. And just get to the forest. You'd have to live there for, well, until further notice."
"What about you?"
"I said you do this after I'm done. So, this first." he pointed the weapon at his own head.
A doctor looked over the patient. "This is, I could swear this is the High Priestess. Even though we saw her this morning. But, but, this woman, I think this is really her."
"An imposter?" asked another doctor.
"Yes," said the first, "perhaps to assure proper succession. That would be my guess."
"Then the First Minister is ...?" asked a third doctor.
There was a sound at the door.
"What's taking so long in there?" Polloria demanded from outside the room.
"Just a, just a moment,” Treve said.
"My ship is out there. They're looking for me,” Lili said.
"Get on with it, Treve!" Polloria yelled.
Jennifer got up and approached Treve. "Don't do that,” she said, “Come with me."
"But, I am no good at such things,” he said, “Blood sickens me. I can't hunt, and I'm barely in any shape to run."
"Doesn't matter,” she said.
"Do you, do you care for me? Are you, is there a bonding?"
"I, I don't know yet,” she said, “But I do know that something in here," she tapped her temple, "has changed. Maybe the way your doctors fixed me up, maybe it's more permanent than it's supposed to be."
"I'll only slow you down." he insisted.
"Then I'll speed you up,” she said. Her hand on his, they pointed the weapon at the hospital wall and fired.
"What was that?" MacKenzie asked.
"Sounded like weapons fire. Over there,” Doug pointed with his phase rifle. "Fire over there."
"That's where we're going, isn't it, Old Man?" Haddon asked.
"What's this?" asked the Calafan doctor.
"Lieutenant, good to see you,” said Dr. Phlox. "Have you found the Ensign yet?"
"No, we were hoping she would be with you."
There was the sound of a weapon being discharged.
"Up one flight,” Malcolm said, running toward it with Travis, Haddon and MacKenzie right behind him.
The hospital wall was in flames. "You could go through there, go to freedom. I suspect we could give you asylum for saving me,” Lili said.
"My, my sister and my brother. I don't think they're safe. I don't trust Polloria at all, and I scarcely trust Father with them now."
Polloria, Chawev and Baden burst into the room. "What's going on?" Polloria demanded.
"She gets to leave." Treve announced. "Either through there or the door. Doesn't matter much, although through there will help you to save face." He indicated the now-absent wall.
"You can't do anything right!" Polloria complained.
"Now, now." Chawev said.
Yimar came in with her brother. "We heard shouting,” she said, “What's going on?"
"Your, your brother is, ...." Polloria began.
"Coming to his senses." Chawev said, “As am I."
"The people will be told. You will go to prison for sure, both of you." Baden threatened.
"Father?" asked Yimar. "For what?"
"For harming a lady downstairs, I'd guess,” Malcolm said, coming in with his team.
Chawev snapped back. "What?"
"Yes,” Phlox said, breathless, behind Malcolm and with the Calafan doctors trailing him closely. "For the potassium poisoning of a woman who has been identified to me as being the High Priestess of this system."
The jump wasn't easy, but they both landed all right. Jennifer took Treve's hand. "Which way to water? We'll start with that."
"Uh, that way." he pointed. They started running. As Treve had said, he wasn't in much shape for running, and needed to rest after a while.
While they were sitting on a rock, Jennifer heard her name being called.
"You all right?" Tripp asked Lili.
"Yes, I think so,” she said, “Good to see the cavalry get here on time."
He clicked open a communicator. "Cap'n, we got her."
"What about Hayes?" asked Jonathan.
Lili shook her head.
"I don't, I don't think so." Tripp said.
"Return to the ship as soon as possible. Archer out."
"Will you release control of the ship?" T'Pol asked Chawev.
"It, the control can be released but there may be some small damage. Our, our method is to suppress memory. The, this woman's memory was, was suppressed, and so was your ship's. Your ship, essentially, forgot how to do some things. All to keep you here and let us do our work. We, our way is to study an individual and see how well that individual recovers from this kind of induced aphasia. Your systems should be similarly affected." he explained.
"And the rest of it?" Malcolm asked.
"That was extra,” Treve said, “To, to try to jerry-rig our politics. It, it did not work as expected."
"Ready to go?" asked Tripp.
"I won't see him again, my nighttime man, will I?" Lili asked Treve.
"Let me think about that,” he said, “And, Father, it may be best for you to think on that as well. If we can ever make amends to these people, perhaps that is what we need to understand."
"Aidan?" Jennifer asked.
Jennifer blinked several times. She and Treve were holding hands. Both of them were dirty from running through the forest. "These are your people. You should go with them,” Treve said.
"No,” she said, and turned to walk away.
"The Empress won't like this,” Travis warned.
"The Empress can go to hell for all I care,” Jennifer said, “And you can quote me on that."
Haddon cocked her weapon and aimed it at Jennifer. Doug pushed her arm down. "No. Don't do that. We found her body in the forest. That's gonna be the story."
"Empress won't be happy,” Travis repeated. "Delacroix down and no Crossman to boot."
"Yeah," Aidan said, “So someone's gotta take the fall for that. It's not gonna be me." He pointed his weapon at Doug's head. "You're coming back with us, Old Man."