Genre: Angst, Drama
Mornings can bring a new perspective or solutions to problems that seemed hopeless the day before. Kali wished she had one of those mornings but today wasn't one of them. There was a solution, but it was a 'lesser of two evils' kind of solution.
Kali leaned hard on the cabin buzzer, pressing several times in quick succession. The empty officer's corridor was sombre and the bland grey walls seemed to whisper their disapproval of her audacity.
A lowly ensign shouldn't be making a personal call on the Captain's cabin or disturbing him this early in the morning, but for her, no rules of protocol were more important than saving Adrian's life.
The door slid open and bleary eyes blinked at her. "Tranton. This had better be good." Captain Tarn smothered a yawn and rubbed his thinning brown hair. "And short. I just woke up and I haven't had coffee." Any rational person who valued her life would see the big red warning flag, apologize profusely for her impudence and backed away, bowing and scraping.
"It's important, sir."
Her earnest grey eyes made Tarn wince. He hung the towel around his neck. "Let me guess, this is about Lt. Stannis?"
Kali met his eyes squarely, a cocktail of accusation and challenge in her voice. "Is he already dead to you, sir?"
The Captain's hands tugged on the ends of the towel, not liking the taste of guilt in the morning. "It might be better if he was, for his sake."
"What will they do to him if he doesn't cooperate?"
Tarn sighed tiredly. Kali wasn’t only one who had been spending sleepless nights. "He will cooperate or they will destroy his mind."
"That would be worse than death for him."
"Don't you think I know that?" Tarn blew out a violent breath and his face came closer to hers as he emphasized, "But there's nothing either one of us can do."
Tarn looked at her with interest. "You have an idea?"
Captain Tarn abhorred visiting the Security Section of his own ship. It was where his vile first officer held court and abused his crew. A contingent of his own black-clad guards waited behind him, phaser rifles at the ready.
Tarn understood the need for discipline but he didn't approve of the sadistic pleasure Barker and his people seemed to take in it. As Captain, he tried to limit the use of discipline as much as possible, preferring to work things out using other means, but there were numerous infractions that did not depend on the participation of the Captain.
He paused before opening the door to the interrogation room. The metal barrier, cold and impersonal, kept screams from escaping to the rest of the ship. It also kept behind closed doors, the things that none of them wanted to think about.
Abandon hope all ye who enter. A shudder passed through him, leaving behind an aftertaste of old fears and disgust. He remembered his own run-ins with Security people in his younger days; before he learned how to play the game.
What would he find? He knew some people were never the same after the sessions with the retraining therapists. Adrian had been subjected to them for eight full days. Would there be anything left of him?
Tarn didn't bother announcing his entrance. His personal override code gave him access to every corner of this ship and he fully intended to make his power and authority loud and clear in this room. "Stay here. Wait for my signal," Tarn’s orders were terse as he pressed the required numbers and placed the flat of his hand to the ident-pad.
The door slid open. Tarn nearly gagged at the stench of humanity that rushed out to meet him. He steeled himself and entered, keeping the shock from showing on his face as moans of pleasure, not of pain greeted his ears. His brilliant genius was a pitiful writhing figure sliding in a soup of his own waste. A conditioning unit imprisoned his head as Barker's hands--
Tarn screamed in fury, "Stop it! ALL OF YOU!"
His first officer continued working on Adrian's wriggling body as he turned to his Captain. He kept his voice respectful even though his eyes were not and his actions were calculated as a deliberate rudeness. "I don't think so.” There was a slight insulting pause. “Sir. We are under orders by Admiral Verel."
"I know what his orders are," said Tarn in controlled anger. "You are relieved of your duties in this matter."
Barker lifted his hands from Adrian's body, got up from his tall stool, and wiped his hands on a red-stained cloth. The Therapist stood at attention, hoping he would be considered a minor participant, not worthy to be included in the Captain's anger.
The first officer advanced on the Captain. "You have no right to do that." His face contorted in a sneer. "Not where Security is concerned."
"On the contrary, I think you'll find I have every right." Tarn banged his hand on the door control. The guards rushed in, like a black wave crashing through a suddenly opened barrier, their weapons drawn and grim looks on their faces. All of them had experienced Barker's discipline before and none of them would have been upset if they had to shoot him.
The sight of Adrian's abused body and what was being done to him, made them grip their rifles tightly as they tried not to gag. Undisguised hatred flashed in their eyes.
Tarn's words had the effect of a whip being applied to unprotected flesh. "I am relieving you of authority, first officer. And charging you with acting according to personal interests, not that of the Empire."
"That's ridiculous!" shouted Barker. "I'm only following the Admiral's orders. Breaking this…" His lips thinned in distaste. "…prisoner so he can serve the Empire."
"And have you?" asked the Captain.
"No, but, we're close."
Without the hands feeding the needs of his body, Adrian was still moaning, more now in agony as his fevered mind was caught between desire and anger at his own weakness.
The Captain said with contempt, "I highly doubt that. You've had him eight days." He looked casually over at the readings on the panel. "And you've increased the drugs to a dangerous level, something the Admiral expressly said not to do. You were not to endanger the prisoner's mind. Or did you forget to read that part of his orders?"
The Therapist's voice rose in defence, "I was watching carefully, sir. I would never…"
The Captain turned to him with a rage that made the Therapist step back. "If there is any damage to his mind, your career is over. Flush the drugs from his system. Now."
Tarn tore the conditioning unit from its hinges, sending bits and pieces flying, and threw it on the ground with a crash as the Therapist rushed over to the panel and shoved his assistant out of the way. He worked frantically to follow the Captain's orders.
The first officer was livid. "You can't get away with this, Captain."
"I'm glad you still recognize my rank," Tarn said with icy sarcasm. "Restrain him." He would have preferred tying him up and throwing the detestable man out of the airlock - he suspected the entire crew would be falling over themselves to help - but unfortunately that would be considered an infraction.
The guards gladly followed his orders and bound the first officer's hands behind him with the same manacles he used for Adrian. Barker considered struggling but the look on the guards' faces told him they were only looking for an excuse to hit him in the line of duty.
Captain Tarn said, "Command does not look favourably on people who fail or act in their own interests to the detriment of the Empire."
Barker spat out, "And you think you can do better? What happens when you hand him over and he hasn't agreed to cooperate yet?"
There was a hard, resolute look on Tarn's face. "He's going to." He gestured. "Take the first officer to the brig. Keep two guards on him."
Everyone filed out, leaving the Captain and the, now silent, prisoner on the slab.
Tarn's steps were heavy with guilt as he approached the bound man. His hand brushed back the hair that was plastered to Adrian's face by salty layers of drying sweat. In a whispered voice, he said, "I'm sorry I let this happen. You didn't deserve it."
Tarn grimaced as he lifted Adrian's lids; the man was barely conscious. There was no way to speak to him in this condition.
He had to prove he could produce the results his first officer and all of his thugs couldn't. There was no choice.
Tarn rummaged through the vials of drugs on the side table and filled an injector. He injected a stimulant into Adrian's arm.
Adrian's eyes fluttered and then he gasped and his body arched as liquid energy forced him back to consciousness. He groaned as the agonies of his body made themselves felt.
Tarn said gently. "Adrian, wake up."
The bound man's head moved slightly from side to side, as if he were refusing.
"Lt. Stannis," the Captain's voice became one of command. "You will hear me."
Adrian's eyes opened slowly, blinking at the bright lights overhead. His voice was raspy. "Cap-tain."
Tarn no longer noticed the smells; the stench of his own guilt filled his nostrils. "I'm sorry I let this happen, Stannis. You were right. I was a hypocrite. More concerned about my own career, a career you saved.”
Finally freed from the manipulative drugs, Adrian's mind began to work again. He almost wished it didn't as the fuzzy details of the past week began to crystallize into a sharply focused nightmare. His thorough mind began to process the horror of what they had done to him. His stomach wrenched painfully and he groaned because there was nothing left to throw up.
Tarn placed his hand on the bound man's head, but Adrian flinched away as far as the restraints allowed. He fell back against the metal platform, wheezing and his body sagging in the metal bands, the last of his energy spent.
The Captain lightly touched the metal that bound him to the table and grimaced but dared not remove them. They were caked with Adrian’s blood and his wrists and ankles were raw and bleeding. Without medical aids, they would be painful to remove. Tarn reluctantly left them on. There was something else he had to do. "Kali Tranton has requested a transfer to the C.S.S. Trykor."
Adrian's mind was too exhausted to maintain the façade of the cold, emotionless man. He rasped, "No."
"It's too late. She's offered the services of her psi abilities and the Admiral is interested. "
Adrian's mind was thrown into chaos by powerful emotions he always kept contained because they confused his rational mind.
Tarn paused a moment before he asked, "What do you think will happen to her if you refuse to cooperate?"
Adrian's heart skipped several beats. "I…" He struggled to return to his old, impassive self. "Don't understand."
"I think you do," said Tarn implacably. "She requested the transfer because she wants to help you. She doesn't realize she's giving them a hostage."
A knife of pain plunged through Adrian's defences, ripping out his insides and laying them bare. Kali had been a thin lifeline in the nightmare that threatened to drown him, but they were taking that away too. His will, his dignity, his mind and now the only thread of hope.
He felt as helpless and exposed as he had the past week and Captain Tarn was as cruel a tormentor as Barker and the Therapist had been.
"She…means…" Adrian fought to push unwanted feelings away. "Nothing."
They weren't taking Kali away, they were making her a part of the nightmare.
"You know they will use her to pressure you, and you know what that means."
I feel nothing. Sentiment is weakness. "She's…nothing to me."
"You won't mind if I give her to Barker then? I believe she's on her shift." Tarn headed slowly to the door and hesitated before he activated the control. He silently willed the stubborn man to answer. For a moment, he wondered if Kali had misjudged Adrian.
A hoarse voice whispered behind him, painful surrender in a single word, "Wait."
Captain Tarn's head bent in anguish.