NEW: "Tincture of Madness" (5/6 DS9 Bashir)

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Nov 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM11/7/96
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Tincture of Madness 5/6
Donna Gentry
ys...@mindspring.com


A cool hand on his forehead woke Bashir. He lifted his eyes and met
Linthe's gaze. She was studying him with an unreadable expression.
Bashir pushed himself up onto the elbow of his uninjured arm,
intending to try to sit up. A wave of weakness dropped him back to the
floor.
Linthe poured a cup of water and held it to his lips. "Just lay still,
darling. You're in no condition for so much exertion."
Bashir sipped at the water. Something was wrong with him. He shouldn't
still be this weak no matter what had been in that hypospray. Linthe
removed the cup and he let his head drop heavily back to the floor.
"I brought you some things," the Besimi said, pulling open a bag. She
removed a small pillow and placed it under his head. Reaching back
into the bag, she pulled out two fat, white candles. "Candles are so
romantic, don't you think?"
Bashir didn't bother to answer. He watched as Linthe lit the candles
and set them on opposite ends of the room.
"Now, isn't that nicer?" She turned to him, obviously expecting an
answer.
Bashir swallowed hard against the dizziness and said, "Linthe, I know
you wanted some private time alone with me." He was surprised at how
weak he sounded. "And I think that's a good idea. We could go to my
quarters and talk..."
Linthe moved closer and placed her finger on his lips. "Save your
strength, darling. We can't leave here right now. There are people
looking for you."
Bashir looked up sharply. Linthe noticed his expression. "Don't worry,
they won't find us here." She brushed his hair back from his forehead.
"I've taken care of that."
Bashir didn't understand. His tired mind couldn't decipher the words.
"Linthe," he felt the need to try to reason with her, "you don't have
to do this. Let me help you--" He broke off at the expression in her
eyes.
"I'm not the one that needs help!" Linthe spit out, angrily. "You need
the help and I'm the one to give it to you." She stopped and visibly
calmed herself. "You made me think the problem was with me. But it
wasn't. It was you! And now I have to help you. That's why we had to
come here."
Linthe stroked the side of his face with her fingers as she spoke. He
winced as her nails bit through the skin, drawing blood. The cold
anger in her eyes sent a shudder through him. He knew in that instant
that there would be no reasoning with her. She was beyond reason. His
only hope was that the search teams would find him before she went too
far.

* * * * *

Kira stepped back and let O'Brien work the control pad. The door
hadn't been opened in so long that the controls were frozen. O'Brien
pulled off the covering and stuck his hand inside. After a minute, the
door slid aside with a groan of metal against metal.
Kira raised her flashlight and stepped inside. The musty smell of
disuse hit her and she coughed. Her light played over the room,
revealing nothing but empty crates and boxes thrown haphazardly around
the area.
"Nothing," she said disgustedly. "It doesn't look like anyone's been
in here in years."
"Damn," O'Brien swore softly. "We're running out of options." Not to
mention, possibly, time.
"There are still four more rooms on this level," Kira tried to sound
hopeful.
O'Brien threw up his hands in a sign of helpless frustration. "It's
been over twenty hours since Julian disappeared. Every hour that slips
by with no sign of him--"
"I know," Kira interrupted. She had been thinking the same thoughts
herself, but she didn't want to hear them voiced aloud. There were
just so damned many places on this station that a prisoner, or a body,
she added with a shudder, could be hidden. And that didn't take into
account the dozen or so ships that had departed before they had
noticed the doctor was missing. Commander Worf was working on that
from the *Defiant* but it could be days before each ship could be
checked out. Days that Bashir maybe didn't have.
Kira turned to leave but was stopped by a hand on her arm.
"Listen!" O'Brien demanded.
Kira strained her ears in the silence. She heard nothing. "What?"
"You don't hear that? It's a hum." O'Brien cocked his head and
listened for a moment. "Like low-level electronics of some sort."
Kira activated her tricorder and studied the readings. "I'm not
picking up anything."
O'Brien stepped further into the room and listened again. After a
minute, he straightened and shook his head. "I guess I'm just picking
up an echo from the upper levels."
"Or maybe wishful thinking." She placed a hand gently on the man's
arm. "We'll find him." The words sounded hollow even to her own ears.
"Let's finish this level and check in with Odo. Maybe he's had better
luck."
The two left to resume the search.
For a long moment there was only silence and darkness in the room.
Then a shadow stepped through the back wall and stared after the
station officers. Satisfied that they were gone, the woman stepped
back through the wall, into the small area she had cleverly hidden
behind a holographic illusion.
Linthe kneeled beside her prisoner. "They're gone, darling. We're
alone now."
Bashir looked up and weakly met her eyes. He was prevented from
answering by the tape across his mouth. Linthe had assured his silence
very effectively. He had listened to Kira and O'Brien's conversation
with a sinking heart, knowing that the search teams would not return
to this area.
He closed his eyes against another attack of nausea. What was wrong
with him? Why couldn't he shake the effects of the hypospray? If he
could just think straight...
"Let's give them a few more minutes, just to be sure," said Linthe.
She moved around behind him and checked the ropes on his hands. The
swelling of his broken wrist had all but cut off the circulation in
his hand. Linthe loosened the bonds slightly.
Bashir breathed a small sigh of relief as the pain decreased
minimally. He heard Linthe move across the small space and fumble with
something, but he couldn't find the strength to open his eyes.
There had to be a reason for the way he felt. The weakness seemed to
be growing progressively worse. *Think, damn it!* he commanded
himself, but his tired mind refused to focus. Coherent thought was
almost impossible. He shook his head to try to clear away the fog,
bringing on a wave of nausea that drew a small groan.
Linthe moved closer and, lifting his head, removed the tape from his
mouth. Bashir opened his eyes. She was holding a cup of water to his
lips. His stomach still churning, Bashir turned his head away in
refusal.
Linthe's grip on the back of his neck tightened painfully. "You need
this. Come on, open your mouth. Cooperate." As her insistence grew,
her grip tightened even further.
Bashir winced as pain shot through his shoulders and down his spine.
He met her gaze with as much strength as he could muster. Was there a
reason she was so insistent about the water? His struggled mentally to
hold on to the train of thought. The water...Suddenly it clicked in
his tired mind.
"The water...is drugged..." he managed weakly.
Anger flashed in Linthe’s eyes. She lowered the cup and backed up,
releasing her hold on his neck. His head fell heavily back to the
pillow.
"I was trying to make this easier for you, but I guess you can't
appreciate my generosity." She reached behind her and produced a
hypospray. "It doesn't really matter. One way or another…it's all the
same to me." She released the drug into his neck with a cruel smile.
Bashir closed his eyes against the sudden increase in nausea and
dizziness.
There was a long moment of silence. Finally, Linthe spoke. "I don't
want to hurt you, Julian, but it's your fault it had to come to this."

Bashir opened his eyes and looked at her. She had backed up to sit
beside one of the candles. As she talked, she ran a finger back and
forth through the flame.
"You made me think you cared about me."
"I do care...about you, Linthe...but just not in the...way you want me
to." Talking was becoming increasingly difficult as the drug took
hold.
Linthe lunged forward and grabbed him by the front of his uniform,
pulling him up to meet her furious gaze. "You used me. You got what
you wanted from me and then tossed me aside." She must have seen the
confusion on his face. "The night of the celebratory dinner at Captain
Sisko's. When you walked me back to my quarters. I was vulnerable then
and you knew it. You took advantage of that to get what you wanted
from me."
Bashir stared at the woman in shock. Finally, he found his voice.
"That's...not the way...it happened."
Linthe's hand shot out, catching him hard across the face. His head
ringing, he looked back to the woman. She was completely mad!
"You can't pretend it didn't happen," said Linthe. "We both know
better. You got what you wanted from me and then moved on to that
Starfleet woman."
Bashir stared at her in revulsion as the words registered through the
pain and fog in his head. "You killed Jibril," he whispered.
"I eliminated a problem," Linthe corrected.
"And tried...to kill Dax."
"It wasn't a completely wasted effort. I think she got the message."
Linthe's gaze softened slightly. "It doesn't matter now."
Bashir blinked hard to clear his vision. The room was growing dark,
but he struggled to hold on to consciousness. "Why..." He stopped and
swallowed hard, then tried again. "Why are you...doing this? What
do...you hope to...accomplish?"
"I could have made you love me, I know I could. But you wouldn't let
me."
Bashir winced at the sudden unbridled fury in the woman's expression
as she drew him closer.
"I thought it was going to get better. Then I heard you, you and that
Bajoran woman. You were talking about me, laughing."
Kira? Bashir struggled to remember what he could have said to Kira
that Linthe might have overheard. He couldn't concentrate on the
thought.
"You were laughing at me!" Linthe spit out in anger. She slammed him
back against the wall. His head hit painfully, drawing a cry from
cracked lips.
Before he could gather his wits, Linthe struck him again. He reeled
but was kept from collapsing by the woman's hold on his uniform front.

"You laughed at me!" she screamed as she hit him again and again.
Bashir took the blows, too weak to try to fight back. At last, blessed
darkness descended, fading the screams and the pain.

* * * * *

Sisko slammed his fist down angrily on his desk. "No one can disappear
without a trace!"
"I'm not saying there isn't a trace, Captain," Odo said patiently. He
knew Sisko's anger wasn't directed at him. The Human was frustrated by
the situation, as they all were. "I'm simply saying that the search
teams haven't turned up anything."
"Is it possible that they've missed something?" Sisko was grasping at
straws and he knew it.
"We've searched every level, visually and with sensors. We found
nothing out of the ordinary."
"Commander Worf still has two more ships to check out," Sisko said
with as much optimism as he could muster. "Until we hear from him, I
want the search teams to go over the lower levels again. It's possible
that some small clue has gone unnoticed."
Odo nodded and left to organize the search.
Sisko swiveled his chair to stare out the small view port at the
stars. Concern and irritation was beginning to wear heavily on him.
The young doctor had been missing for almost two days now and they had
yet to find the first clue.
The captain's hands clenched unconsciously into fists. It was just so
damned frustrating! They couldn't even pin down a viable motive.
Sisko closed his eyes and sighed deeply. Was the young man dead? If
so, why hadn't they found a body? If not, why hadn't they at least
found a clue to his whereabouts? Was he injured? Waiting for someone
to help him?
He spun his chair back around to face his desk. It did no good to
speculate on the worse case scenario. He had to find something
constructive to occupy his thoughts. Switching on his computer, he
called up all of Doctor Bashir's medical logs for the past week and
began reading. It was a long shot at best, but maybe there would be
something, somewhere, that could help.

* * * * *

Quark watched the two silent Starfleet officers with a frown. It was
depressing just to be around these people lately. Of course, the
Ferengi knew why they were so disconsolate. Rumors had been flying
around the station since yesterday. A person would have to be dead or
deaf not to know by now that Doctor Bashir was missing.
Dax looked up as Quark approached. Concern shadowed her normally
impassive face.
"If we could just figure out a motive," O'Brien said into the silence.
"At least, then we would have a starting point, some idea of which way
to turn." He reached for the glass as Quark set it before him, but did
not drink. "I just can't shake the feeling that Ensign Garbett's
accident and the problems with the runabout are tied in with Julian's
disappearance somehow."
Dax frowned. "But how? What do the three incidents have in common?"
"Doctor Bashir," Quark stated matter-of-factly. The connection was
obvious.
They looked up as one.
"Julian?" O'Brien was confused.
"Doctor Bashir was seeing Ensign Garbett," Quark explained. "And
Lieutenant Dax was scheduled to take that same runabout out, was she
not?" At O'Brien's nod, he continued. "Dax is one of Bashir's closest
friends."
O'Brien's eyes narrowed as he considered the theory. Was there a
connection?
"But who would care about Julian's relationships?" asked Dax.
"I think it's obvious," Quark said. He pulled out a chair and sat
down, deliberately taking his time. He enjoyed being the center of
attention. For once, he had the answers that they wanted.
"Quark," O'Brien growled impatiently.
"You Humans have a saying, something about a scorned woman, I think."
"What?" O'Brien wasn't certain he had heard right.
"Who else would care enough to want to arrange 'accidents' for the
other women in his life?"
O'Brien looked up, meeting Dax's eyes. "But who...?"
"Julian hasn't been seeing anyone else that I know of," Dax replied.
Their eyes went to Quark.
"Don't look at me," he protested, rising. "I was merely making an
observation. You two will have to figure out the rest of it."
The Ferengi walked away, leaving the two of them staring after him in
confusion.
"What do you think?" O'Brien asked after a minute.
"I don't know," Dax said slowly. "It makes as much sense as some of
the other theories I've heard."
"Maybe we should have a talk with Captain Sisko."

* * * * *

"A woman?!" Sisko sounded as astonished as they had when Quark had
first mentioned it.
"Don't be so quick to dismiss the theory, Benjamin," Dax said. "The
more I think about it the more sense it makes."
"But who?" Kira asked.
Dax spread her hands in a gesture of frustration. "I don't know."
"She would have to be insane," Kira observed. "If what Quark suggested
is true, this woman is guilty of murder and attempted murder, not to
mention whatever has happened to Julian." The thought was more than a
little disturbing.
Kira's face suddenly drained of color. "Dear Prophets!"
"What is it?" Sisko demanded.
"It has to be Linthe!"
O'Brien snapped around to look at Kira. "Do you realize what you're
saying? She's one of the most brilliant minds in the Federation."
"Who better to sabotage the runabout and the power conduit without
detection?"
"Do you have anything to back up this accusation, Major?" Sisko asked.
"Just Julian's own suspicions. He's been concerned for some time now
about the woman's attentions." She turned to O'Brien. "We joked about
it at the dinner last week, remember? The day before he disappeared he
mentioned to me that he thought she was following him."
Kira's hand went to her pale face. "I laughed about it, called him
paranoid! If I had taken him seriously--"
"Don't jump to conclusions, Major," Sisko interrupted. "We should have
a talk with Linthe first."
He stood and headed for the door. "I'll inform Odo of our
speculations. Dismissed."
The officers returned to their posts in OPS. Kira slid into her seat
with an agonized expression.
"Are you all right?" Dax asked.
"Julian tried to tell me he was worried about Linthe and I laughed it
off."
"You can't blame yourself," Dax said softly. "There was no indication
that she was capable of such an act. Besides, you could be wrong."
"I hope to God you are," O'Brien said, "even if it means we're back to
square one. Julian jokingly warned me not to make an enemy of the
woman, because of her strength. If she's insane enough to kill Jibril
and try to kill Dax, what has she done to Julian?"

* * * * *

Julian Bashir's eyes fluttered but did not open. As consciousness
returned, he groaned. His face was stiff and hurt where he lay on it.
Mustering all his strength, he rolled to his back and almost screamed
as his weight pressed on his broken wrist. He rolled to his side,
gasping against the pain.
Slowly, he opened his eyes. Linthe was gone. The candles burned still
against the wall. At least, he hadn’t been left in darkness.
Bashir winced as he was assaulted again by the nausea. Whatever Linthe
was giving him was too strong for his system. He had to get out of
here. He needed help.
Linthe could not be reasoned with. She was too far gone. She fully
intended to kill him. He knew that with certainty.
He looked around the room again. There had to be a way to get out of
here. He didn't know how long he had before Linthe returned. He wasn't
sure if he could get far in his weakened condition, or even if he
could find a way to get loose, but he knew without a doubt that he
would die if he didn't try.
He forced his mind to focus on the problem. It was practically
impossible and he wondered if that was from the drugs or the injuries.
He closed his eyes with a sigh. Both, probably.
Suddenly, his eyes jerked open and he looked at the candle closest to
him. If he could make it that far...
Bashir rolled back to his stomach and pushed himself as best he could
with his bound feet. Using the elbow of his uninjured arm, he inched
himself forward.
An eternity later, he stopped, having only managed a few feet. He
allowed himself a short break, then pushed on. Three more tries, and
he was there.
Somehow, Bashir found the strength to push himself into a sitting
position against the wall. The effort left him lightheaded and
exhausted. He took a short moment to catch his breath. He shook his
head to clear his vision. Then, turning his back to the candle, he
stuck his hands into the flame.
At first, he felt nothing. Then, as the flame licked at the cords
binding him and bit into the flesh of his hands, his mind registered
the pain. He bit his lip hard to stop the cry that worked its way up
his throat. The pain grew increasingly worse as the sickening stench
of burning flesh filled the room.
Unable to stand the pain, Bashir jerked his hands away, panting hard.
He squeezed his eyes shut. He had to try again, and he had to hurry.
Linthe could come back at any moment.
Scraping together the last remnants of his courage, Bashir once more
held his hands in the fire. The pain assaulted him again, stronger
than before, but he forced himself to hold still. At last, the bonds
holding him gave way. He almost cried out in relief.
He blinked away the tears that had sprung to his eyes and examined his
hands. The burns were deep, but the sight of his broken wrist worried
him more. It was badly swollen, and the skin had turned dark. It
needed treatment. He had to get out of here.
He fumbled one-handed with the cords binding his feet, but his fingers
were numb with pain from the burns and almost useless. After a few
minutes, he gave up and turned back to the candle. It took several
minutes to burn through, but, at last, he was free.
His first effort to stand was unsuccessful, but a second try got him
to his feet. He leaned heavily against the wall, waiting for the
dizziness to pass.
Cradling his broken arm with his good hand, Bashir took a step toward
the wall Linthe had walked through. He swayed and almost doubled over
as the nausea hit him again. As soon as it passed, he continued. He
stepped through the holographic wall into almost total darkness.
He reached for the closest wall and felt his way to the door. In the
corridor, Bashir looked both ways, trying to get his bearings. He had
no idea where he was, he realized with a panicked breath. There was
nothing to distinguish this corridor from any other on the station.
Turning left, he started off at a slow stumble, hoping he didn't meet
Linthe coming at him.

* * * * *

Odo stepped from the turbolift into Ops and scanned the area for
Captain Sisko. He spotted the Human and headed for him.
"We have a problem, Captain," the shapeshifter said as he approached.
Sisko looked up and frowned. He couldn't read anything from Odo's
expression but that statement didn't bode well.
"I can't seem to locate Linthe, although I have reports that she was
seen on the Promenade less than thirty minutes ago." He paused. "I
took the liberty of conducting a search of her quarters. What I found
was highly suspicious, to say the least."
"Constable?" Sisko prompted, when Odo stopped.
"The rooms have been ransacked. Among the debris, I found photographs
of Doctor Bashir and several personal items belonging to him."
O'Brien let out a long breath. "Dear God," he said softly. "It's
true."
"At least we know Julian's still here on the station," Kira pointed
out. She refused to think of the other very real possibility, that
Bashir was dead.
Sisko nodded grimly. "Which means we missed him, somehow."
"I don't see how that's possible," Odo said. "Every level of the
station was searched."
"You're forgetting who we're dealing with," O'Brien said. "She could
easily devise a way to block the scanners."
"We'll have to conduct another visual search," Sisko said.
"I have teams already on it," Odo informed them. "I wanted to bring
you up to date before I join them."
"Benjamin!" Dax's voice drew their attention to the science station.
"I'm picking up an low level power surge on Level Fourteen."

* * * * *

It had taken an eternity for Julian Bashir to pry the cover from the
access panel on the wall. His pain numbed right hand was practically
useless, slowing him down tremendously.
He wasn't sure exactly what he had done, but a shower of sparks proved
that there was a least a small amount of power still running through
the circuits. The chances of it being strong enough to register in Ops
were slim at best. But it was the best his drugged mind could come up
with at the moment.
Bashir leaned back heavily against the wall and tried to think. He had
to get help. But how? This level had already been searched. They
wouldn't return unless he gave them reason to.
No, he had already thought of that. That's why he had overloaded the
circuits in the access panel. He shook his head to dispel the haze in
his brain. He was so tired! If he could just rest for a few minutes...

He slid slowly to the floor and drew his knees up to rest his head on.
Just a few minutes...No! He pulled himself awake with an effort. He
couldn't stay here. Linthe would be coming back.
It took two tries to get back to his feet. Leaning heavily on the
wall, Bashir stumbled forward. The movement brought a surge of nausea
and dizziness that sent him to his knees. He waited it out and climbed
back to his feet.
With each step, the weakness and pain increased. He couldn't go on
much further like this, he realized. He had to find someplace to hide
until help came. If it came...

* * * * *

Linthe stepped through the wall and stopped short. Julian was gone!
That was impossible! There was no way for him to get loose. She had
checked the cords binding him before she left. Could he have been
found? No, she had seen his friends just moments ago. They were still
wallowing in their pious sorrow at his disappearance.
Her eyes swept the room and came to rest on the cords laying beside
the candle. She picked them up with a curse. How could she have been
so stupid as to have left the candles burning?! No matter. He couldn't
have gotten far in his weakened condition.
Linthe tossed the cords aside and stepped back through the wall.

* * * * *

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