::She was dreaming. Not a pleasant one either. Her heart thudded against the inside of her chest as she again found herself in that familiar corridor aboard the Gorkon in the year 2393. It felt almost surreal hearing herself giving the orders exactly as she’d given them that day. As she turned to where Abigail had been standing that day, she was startled to find German standing there in a teal crewman’s uniform.::
::A crippling wave of clear stole her breath, causing her chest to clench painfully. She knew what was about to happen. All noise seemed to fade around her. She tried to shout...to warn German, but though her lips moved, no sound came from them. The seconds ticked by at an agonizingly slow pace as she saw the generator she’d been working on so meticulously fail.::
::She fought so hard to stay, her body ignoring her wishes as it scrambled for the Jeffries tube. Tears of pain and fear slid down her cheeks as she turned in time to see the blue shimmer of the forcefield fade, German’s shocked expression as he was pulled into the vacuum of space. She called for him, tried to reach for him, but the hatch slammed shut in front of her, cutting her off.::
(( Auxiliary Cargo Bay / Converted Brig, SS Belfast ))
::She surfaced slowly, confused and still partly lost in the nightmare that her unconscious mind had chosen to torture her with. The first thing that caught her awareness was a low, almost undetectable buzz as energy flowed through the conduits disguised with panels. Cool air created a harsh contrast as it made contact with the hot moisture of tears that still stained her cheeks as she fought to overcome the dizziness plaguing her. Each breath she took in to calm herself had her fighting the urge to cough from the staleness of the air.::
::A vaguely familiar voice filled her ears and she struggled to place it at first. After a few moments, her vision cleared and she found herself face to face with Lenik, a scowl crossing her lips. So this was what Rilaw had wanted. She’d wondered why Rilaw would go to all of the trouble to wait until she’d wandered off from the others.::
Lenik: Welcome to my humble ship, Commander.
Rosek: ::grinds out:: Lenik. I wondered where you were hiding.
Rilaw: ::scowls:: Shut the hell up, hybrid!
::A low growl rumbled in Lael’s chest, but stayed locked away behind her tightened lips. Her eyes held a fire that would have made most humanoids back away. Whatever Rilaw had injected her with was messing with her control. She only hoped it left her system soon. She’d never tested the full measure of her strength and it intimidated her to think of what she’d do with her judgement compromised and the unrestrained fury coursing through her bloodstream. This time, there was no Janel here to anchor her and God only knew what kind of torture they had in mind.::
Lenik: It was very good of you to leave yourself open for the Colonel to steal away. We have hostages here. But what we were lacking was a high ranking Federation officer to secure our position further. For that, I offer you thanks.
::The words were like a red hot poker jabbed into a fresh wound, painful and meant to drive home a point. Her breath caught, her blood like thick lava in her veins as she struggled to keep a level head. Well, s$!*. She’d never imagined that Lenik would take enough of a personal interest in her to target her specifically. She’d been so focused on what he was going to inflict on the people of Karraka that she hadn’t considered that she might be in danger, too.::
Rosek: ::snarls:: They’ll never give in to you. Starfleet doesn’t negotiate with terrorists.
Rilaw: Can’t come up with anything else? That’s not even a threat!
::She jerked at the restraints as though testing them out. In her weakened state, she wouldn’t be able to break them. Hell, she wondered if she could even if her focus wasn’t all over the place. Sweat dripped down the sides of her face and neck, her breathing heavy as she stared at Lenik without blinking. Again, she tested her restraints, grunting with effort as she tried to break free of them. After a few moments, her body went lax, her breaths coming out deep and labored. The fire in her eyes was hot enough to melt deuterium as her gaze met Lenik’s.::
Rosek: You better pray to whatever higher power you believe in that I don’t break these restraints. ::pauses:: If I do, there will be no power in this universe that can save you.
Rilaw: ::backhands the woman across the face:: You have no power here! Lenik just had a nice chat with your crew. You better pray to whoever your god is that they do as what we say!
::The harsh contact with her face stung enough that it had her biting back a gasp of surprise. It wasn’t the most painful blow she’d received in her young life. She’d been in enough fights that it barely scratched the surface. Refusing to give them the satisfaction of seeing how much it hurt, she clamped down on the sound, trapping it in her chest.The only indication was the way her head snapped to the side and the moment’s hesitation between the blow and her returning her gaze to Rilaw, the fire in her eyes burning even hotter. This time, however, she maintained her composure and stayed silent.::
Rosek: oO You’re a Starfleet officer. Don’t take the bait. Oo
::Even with the sharpness of the pain in her cheek still preventing her from focusing very well on her other senses, she saw Rilaw move off and the way Lenik followed the woman with his eyes. She had no doubt that whatever Rilaw had planned, she wouldn’t like it. The Klingon woman had already proved she wasn’t the merciful sort so whatever momentary reprieve Lael had know, the other woman was about to up the ante.::
Rosek: oO Svi' hasu nafai k' ra dungi nam-tor, veh tal-tor sochya. (In accepting the inevitable, one finds peace.) Oo
::She’d never been afraid of the torture she’d face at the hands of an enemy. The near constant bullying from her childhood had prepared her well. Besides, she’d known what she was getting into when she signed up. What the lectures from her professors hadn’t solidified in her mind, the texts, holovids and her own experiences over the last few years had.::
::Her only regret if this was to be the place she died was the way she’d left things with German. He loved her more than she deserved. Even as she pushed him away, he did his damndest to break through her walls, always patient with her when the insecurities took hold. If this was to be her atonement for the stupid choices she’d made in her young life, so be it.::
Rosek: ::murmurs in Esperanto:: Father, forgive me. I was so blinded by my fear and my pride that I could not see the truth of what was in front me. Give me strength, courage and peace, Father, to endure what awaits me. Thy will be do--
::The metal striking her leg caused her to stop short, a shooting pain lacing through her knee and down into her shin. She gritted her teeth behind her lips. Despite her best efforts, a grunt of combined shock and pain breaking free even as her knee buckled, leaving her hanging from the iron cuffs as her hands. Her breath came out in heavy pants as she tried to force the sensations to the back of her mind and focus on what was going on in front of her. She had to stay alert. There was no telling what Lenik or Rilaw would do to try to break her.::
Rilaw: ::chuckles maliciously:: You better start talking or you won’t be able to have use of these pretty legs of yours anymore.
::A momentary rush of fear caused her mind to race, but she shut it down quickly schooling her features into a mask of calm. She was stunned by the strange sense of peace that filled every fiber of her being as she handed the fear over. No matter what Rilaw did or threatened to do, she would leave this place with her integrity intact. She refused to give them what they needed to hurt others just to save her own skin. She was taking those secrets to the grave.::
Lenik: That’ll be enough. Leave us for now, Colonel. Take the engineer with you. I want to be alone with our guest.
::She took the reprieve to catch her breath, though she eyed the Vulcan warily. Mercy was not one of the man’s character traits. A shiver raced up her spine and she knew the order could only mean that whatever Rilaw had had planned for her would be nothing compared to what Lenik intended to do to her.::
::She tensed, feeling the ice cold metal digging into her wrists as she again attempted to break free of her bindings. But it was no use. Whatever it was composed of, Lenik had clearly taken precautions against her above average strength.::
::She had tuned out the exchange between Lenik and Rilaw until she heard the angry snap of the Klingon woman’s voice ringing in her ears.::
Rilaw: Surely, you’re not serious, Lenik. We’re just getting started.
::It was a bold move on Rilaw’s part, or a stupid one. Lael couldn’t decide which. Not that Lael was a wilting flower by any stretch of the imagination. Had she been standing toe to toe with Lenik on equal ground as Rilaw was, the Vulcan would have received much harsher words from her and perhaps a few broken bones. She shook the thoughts from her head. No. She had to stay focused and ready for whatever Lenik had planned next for her.::
Lenik: Yes. I am sure. Do not question me again, Colonel.
::She could tell the Klingon woman wasn’t happy as she left the room without another word. As much as Lael hated her, a thought formed in her mind. Perhaps if she could find out Rilaw’s motivations for working with Lenik, she could convince the woman to help take him down. It was clear there was no love lost between the two and Rilaw wouldn’t miss the Vulcanoid if he met with an unfortunate end. Why, then, had Rilaw turned her back on her own people to join Lenik?::
Lenik: So. Starfleet will not negotiate with terrorists, you say. That is the official policy, Lieutenant Commander. Do you think that in the two hundred and sixty years since Starfleet’s founding, of all the officers, of all of the terrorists, none have bent that rule?
Rosek: I’m not worth enough to them to risk the destruction of entire civilizations. ::smirks:: Even you must be familiar with the Vulcan axiom “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.
::The expression on his face in that brief moment as he stared hard at her was disconcerting. He moved close enough that she could see the dangerous emotions stirring in his gaze. There weren’t a lot of things in this universe that she was afraid of. But his eyes held a promise of agony that set her heart pounding against the walls of her ribcage. It was a known fact that he took pleasure in toying with his prey. In fact, it was noted in the file Starfleet had on him that was fairly thick. He wasn’t above any means to achieve his goal. Meridian had proved that.::
::She tensed, fighting the urge to wince as his hand drew near to her face. Straining against the restraints, she did her best to increase the distance between them as much as the chains would allow. Her body screamed in protest, anger threatening to overwhelm her. The hand and it's clear intention reminded her too much of Temlai.::
::Those men had touched her against her will. She’d sworn that she’d never let another man touch her like that again. Even after all these years, she could still feel the Romulan man’s hand make sharp contact with her backside, the sting that lingering afterwards as he taunted her, “Not as tough as you look, eh?” The way his hands had remained too long in certain places as he trapped her against the wall--::
Lenik: I’m not sure I believe you. Let us find out for sure.
::She said nothing, refusing to give him the satisfaction. The more she squirmed and tried to fight him, the more pleasure he would gain from her fear. That was one lesson she’d learned all too well. No. She’d remain still and the fight that she couldn’t put up with her body, she would put up with her mind.::
::Somehow, she managed to choke back a sob of fear as his hands found the contact points on her face, her body tensing further. She’d never been part of a Vulcan mind meld and the very thought of it scared the $%!* out of her. She turned her face, attempting to dislodge his fingers.::
::However, he compensated for her struggles and she gasped loudly as she felt his mind invade hers. The shock to her system made her easy prey at first, hearing the words as though she was far away, even as they rang in her ears.::
Lenik: Your mind… is my mind. Your thoughts… are my thoughts…
::Images of her past overwhelmed her, disconcerting her.::
((Cedar Springs, Michigan, Earth))
((Approximately 24 years Earlier…))
::It wasn’t the first time Johnny Warren had pushed her, but it was the first time he’d made her cry. Her hands shook as she studied the scrapes on them, just deep enough that blood was coming to the surface and staining the edges of the torn skin. It stung, though not near enough to induce tears.::
::No. His words had done that. Mongrel he’d called her. Half-breed. Freak. The taunts continued as she rose shakily from the ground with her best friend, Nicholas, helping her. She could tell he wanted to take a swing at Johnny, but he wouldn’t have stood any better of a chance than her.::
::As she found her footing, her gaze locked with Johnny’s and she glared at him despite the hot tears rolling down her cheeks. The hurt was rapidly turning into anger, but the fire in her eyes didn’t seem to deter him. When he made to push her again, she punched him in the jaw...or tried to. He caught her fist easily and shoved it aside as he pushed her again. This time, though, she was ready and didn’t stumble.::
Rosek: Don’t you have anything better to do than pick on girls half your size?
::This drew a series of “ooo”s from the crowd that had gathered around them. She wanted to look for a teacher, but she didn’t dare take her gaze off of him in case he got physical again. As she’d suspected would happen, he got angry and shoved her a third time, harder than the previous two times.::
::The only thing that kept her from falling to the hard ground was Nicholas’s good reflexes. As he helped her back to her feet, she shoved his hands away. A hurt look crossed his face. She couldn’t spare him the explanation. If she showed even the slightest weakness, Johnny would take advantage of it.::
Warren: ::laughs and points at Nicholas:: Check it out. The little freak has a pet. ::smirks:: For all the good he’ll do her.
Rosek: ::yells:: I bet you wouldn’t be so tough without all of your cronies backing you up. I bet you’re nothing but a coward who’s mad because nobody likes you.
::As bold as her words had been, no amount of them could stop the fist that came flying at her face.::
::She gasped as Lenik broke the meld, her body still shaking from the adrenaline coursing through her veins. Right now, she wanted nothing more than to curl up in a ball...to hide away from prying eyes and cry. But she couldn’t. The restraints and her imprisonment here had her at Lenik’s mercy.::
::She could only pray that the meld had drained him as much as it had drained her. She didn’t really have much experience with them, but she imagined it took a great deal of energy for Lenik to force his way past her normally solid mental shields. By all rights, he shouldn’t have been able to penetrate them at all. Yet, he had.::
Rosek: ::breathlessly:: Go to hell!
Rosek: ::lips thin:: I’ll die before I give you what you want.
Rosek: ::glares at him:: My crew will destroy this ship and everyone aboard it before they give in to your demands.
Rosek: ::straightens:: I’m not afraid to die for what I believe in. Can you say the same?
USS Montreal, NCC-64927