Soldar looked around in Vakai’s quarters, as small as they were on a Centaur vessel, they were still as decorative as Soldar had expected. He could see some of the Japanese paintings and writings up on the walls, with what space Vakai had for them. What intrigued him the most was the sword stand that held a Japanese Samurai Sword. “Is this authentic?” He asked as he went to pick it up carefully.
Vakai nodded his head, “It is. My father is a craftsman, or a blacksmith if you wish to be technical. He made them himself, staying with the strict guidelines of our culture.”
Soldar pulled on the sheath gently, and slowly pulled the blade free to study it more closely. He even dragged his thumb over the blade to feel that it was incredibly sharp. “Your Captain is comfortable with you having a weapon such as this in your quarters?”
Vakai tilted his head a little. “It is more than just a weapon, Commander. The Katana is a work of art, crafted with the purest steel, which is incredibly strong and has the most amazing cutting ability.” Vakai stepped over and politely took the sword from Soldar’s hands. “It is said that the Katana represents the soul of the Samurai and is generally passed down from generation to generation.” Vakai took the sheath as well and gently slid the blade back in before setting it back down on the stand, where just below it was the wakisazhi.
“Does your father have his own?” Soldar asked.
Vakai turned to face him after making sure that the Katana was returned properly to the stand. “He does. He told me, when the time comes, he will pass it down to me. These were a gift from him when I graduated from the Academy.”
Soldar then stepped away for a moment, clasping his hands together at the small of his back before making a sharp one-eighty and looking directly into Vakai’s eyes. “I want to talk about your parents. Your biological parents. Not the ones who raised you and took care of you back on Earth.”
Vakai frowned for a second, he knew that was something that Starfleet was well aware about but still. “What about my biological parents?”
Soldar took a step forward. “Is it true that they are agents of the Tal’Shiar?”
Vakai’s frown deepened. That was something he did not inform Starfleet about. “I am uncertain as to where you are getting your resources from, but no.”
Soldar’s facial expression had remained neutral but the look in his eyes said he did not believe in Vakai. “My resources are extremely reliable and they tell me that your biological parents are indeed agents of the Tal’Shiar. Do you have any idea of the repercussions there are in lying on your Academy Application Form?”
Vakai figured that such repercussions would simply be a slap on the wrist, or a demotion, or worse…forced out of Starfleet. “No, I do not.”
“You very well could be facing a Court Martial, as well as being imprisoned and working for the Federation for the rest of your life.” Soldar spoke rapidly, his tone more serious.
Vakai felt that was odd but he decided to play it out. “A little harsh but understandable.”
Soldar took one final step closer. “Quite frankly, if you were indeed in the Tal’Shiar, such dishonesty would have you thrown out in front of a firing squad.”
Vakai frowned at Soldar, “Why are we talking about the Tal’Shiar so much, Commander?”
Soldar sighed, “Because they were the ones who hired the mercenary. Or do you not remember that little detail that your Captain gave you in Sickbay?”
“Of course I remember.”
“Then tell me who your biological parents are!” Soldar demanded.
Vakai shook his head, “Even if I did, which I don’t, they do not work for the Tal’Shiar!”
Soldar let out a heavy sigh of disappointment. “I grow bored of this. Time to spice it up.” He closed his eyes and suddenly the entire scenery had changed and Vakai would find himself strapped down to a metal table, his uniform missing. In fact, Soldar’s clothes had changed as well.
“What the hell?!” Vakai exclaimed as he tried to break free.
“I know you are lying to me, Vakai. I can not only see it in your eyes but I can read your thoughts. The device that we are hooked up to allows me to do just that, and you are hiding something from me. Something that I want, and you will give it to me.” Soldar paused as he picked up what looked like sheers. “Or I am going to start snipping off your digits…one for every ten seconds. So tell me what I want to know!”
Vakai was looking around frantically, trying to understand how he would be standing for one second, then laying on his back on a table, strapped down for that matter, a second later. A holodeck program couldn’t be that sophisticated, unless. Yes, it did feel familiar. Was exactly what he was warned about, a virtual reality, real as ever, that is used for training. Or in this case, gather information through any means necessary without afflicting any damage to the real body. He needed to think up some defenses and fast.
“Yes…yeessss…I can feel your mind racing, your anxiety rising, your fear growing. You do know where you are and you know exactly what is coming next, you understand it. That only further proves that your biological parents are in fact agents of the Tal’Shiar.” Soldar’s smile grew wide as he then approached Vakai and catches Vakai’s left thumb with the sheers. “So tell me who they are! Now!”
Vakai lifted up his head as best as he could to look at Soldar in the eye, “Go to hell!”
Soldar tsked, “Wrong answer.” And with that, he squeezed slowly, taking his time cutting Vakai’s thumb right off of his left hand, enjoying the sound of the man crying out in agonizing pain. After the audible thud of the thumb falling to the floor, Soldar moved to the left index finger. “Shall we try this again?”
Gomez slammed the palms of her hands on the display screen of the main console attached to the railing around the warp core, swearing up a storm. “Why the hell is this not working!?”
Ryker came up to her side, though a little cautious as he was afraid she might turn around swinging. “Something wrong?” And she nearly did, startled by his voice as she had definitely not expected him to be there.
She took a deep breath and sighed heavily and quickly in frustration. “Thanks to our guest, the patch job is actually better than before. By my diagnostics, we should be up and running, ready to go. But for some goddamn reason, we cannot establish a f-” She paused for a second and remembered a strange series that Ryker got her watching, “a fracking warp field!”
Ryker held back a chuckle when she used that word but he refrained as he didn’t want to make her even more frustrated than she needed to be. “Something wrong with the patch job?”
She sighed, again, but now annoyed. “No. As I said, it’s better than the first one. I just can’t figure out what the hell is wrong. It should be working.” An engineer came over to her with a padd with the results of the latest diagnostic, which she then threw across the room and threw her hands up in defeat.
Again, Ryker had to try to refrain from laughing, as she was being a bit comedic about this, though not being able to establish a warp field is rather serious. “Do I want to ask?”
“You’re going to anyway. The report states that everything is working within optimal parameters. We’ve even tweaked a few systems based on the Chief’s notes to increase the efficiency, and the diagnostic says that it SHOULD be working!” Gomez told him before pointing at her console. “But this thing here, says we cannot establish a stable warp field and will not tell me why.”
Suddenly a voice came over the intercom, “Chief Gomez?”
She tapped her badge, “What?!” Took her a second to realize she just shouted at someone but she will have to apologize to them later.
“We were just going over the hull to inspect for any more damage that we have missed,” It was the damage control crew that she sent out to patch anything outside, especially the damage to the Impulse Drive Plasma Feed Conduit, sealing up that hole was top priority. “And our sensors are getting something highly unusual from the starboard nacelle pylon.”
Gomez frowned, “Like what?”
“Some EM signatures but we can’t see anything.”
Gomez tapped her chin, “Link up your forward visual with the main console over here, I want a look.” They did just that but all they could see was the pylon, nothing unusual. “Try using a highly concentrated tachyon beam at the pylon.” She suggested to them and waited for them to do just that, which took them some time but they notified her that they started using it. For a few seconds, there were no results but then they could see a slight shimmer.
Ryker frowned, “A cloaked device?”
Gomez started entering some commands at her station, linking it up with the craft’s sensors to see the display readout. “I want you to use the shuttles’ phasers, at one percent power and target that area.” They watched as a beam hit the object but nothing happened. “Increase it to two percent and keep increasing it until it is revealed.” She ordered and there were a few phaser shots, but once it was up to six percent, whatever had the device cloaked had been neutralized and a circular green looking device was revealed.
Ryker raised his brows, “Well I’ll be damned. What do your sensors say now?”
Gomez was going over the data from the shuttle and let out a heavy sigh, annoyed but relieved. “This is what was causing the problem of establishing a stable warp field. If this had not been found, we would have to be towed by a tug ship or a utility ship to the Devron Fleet Yards. What’s good about it, is that it is not attached to the pylon by clamps or claws or anything that punctured the hull. If it were, I would be very worried about removing it.”
“How is it attached then?” Ryker asked.
She looked at him for a second then back at her console where her fingers were dancing about, typing away and entering commands. “It’s attached magnetically. I just need to reverse the polarity on the structural integrity field carefully, I don’t want to send it flying right at the shuttle.” She said as she worked on doing just that. After a few minutes, they witness the device detaching from the pylon and floating towards the shuttle. “Bring it in carefully boys, I don’t want it reattaching itself to the hull.”
The crewmen acknowledged but before they could snatch it with a tractor beam, it suddenly started to crumple in on itself before it eventually just shattered into pieces. Gomez and Ryker looked at each other, confused before she looked back at her console and went over the sensor data. Gomez let out one more sigh, “Damn. I should have seen that coming.”
“What happened?” Ryker asked.
Gomez turned around fully and leaned back against the edge of the console. “It imploded before splitting apart into what pieces remained. It was basically a self-destruct mechanism, to prevent us or anyone from analyzing the technology behind it.”
Ryker shook his head then shrugged his shoulders. “That mercenary is good. But you are able to get that warp field going, right?”
Gomez turned around and started entering commands on her console before looking back at Ryker. “We can go to warp.”
Ryker clapped his hands together, “That’s good news! How long do you think you can set up our engines to mask our warp signature to look like a Romulan vessel for the Free States?”
Gomez entered some calculations before looking back at him. “Half an hour. We can go to Warp Seven by the way but with these modifications, I don’t recommend going more than Warp Six if we don’t want to give ourselves away to anyone in Free State space.”
Ryker smiled, “Good to hear. I’ll let the Captain know, right after I speak to our Bajoran couple.”
“Are you going to choose who will be the one in charge of the Hazard Team?” She asked.
Ryker raised his brows, “You know about that?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Sivol told me about it, after Vakai told her…so yeah. You and Vakai want to establish a more primary use of the Hazard Team, make it a full department on the ship Vakai will be commanding…if he gets one I mean.”
Ryker smirked and shook his head, “Yeah, that be it.”
She nodded her head, speaking up before he turned to leave. “I would suggest Maya.”
Ryker grinned, “Is this because this is some girl power thing?”
She squinted at him before smacking him on the arm. “Dork. No. I just feel more comfortable with Koyda being the Chief of Security, when that time comes, as he definitely knows how to run a security department. Maya is just the kind of gal that I would prefer as Head of the Hazard Team department of yours, just because I know that if anyone gets in her way, she will knock you down and not give a damn.”
Ryker chuckled softly before nodding his head. “I’ll keep that in mind the next time I am able to discuss it with Vakai.”
Gomez nodded as well, “We are going to get him back, right?”
Ryker placed his hand on her shoulder, “If Maya is as badass as you say she is, then yes, we will get him back. If what Rosa said is true, no one should be left in the hands of that madman.”
Suddenly Captain Carter’s voice rang all around them in Main Engineering that people had to cover their ears. “What is the status of our warp engines?”
Gomez shook her head and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Great. Someone fixed the intercom without notifying me first.” She turned her head and shouted, “The volume is way too goddamn high! To whomever fixed them. You know who you are. Get back there and fix it before I make you scrub the plasma manifolds for a month!”
Ryker chuckled a little, “Someone’s tense.”
Gomez looked at him and rolled her eyes. “I know they’re still mourning over the loss of the Chief, I will once we get Vakai back and get this ship in a drydock for repairs. But the point is, they are forgetting to notify me about certain things.”
Ryker patted her shoulder, “I’m sure it’ll pass shortly.”
“Hello?” Carter’s voice boomed again.
Gomez groaned, turned around to her station and started bypassing herself into the intercom settings, booting out whoever was in them earlier, and did some adjustments. Then she turned back around to face Ryker, leaning back against her console with her arms crossed over her chest, not looking very pleased. “Sorry, Captain. Experiencing some technical difficulties with the intercom. The warp engines are back online, we can go to warp as soon as I mask our warp signature.”
“Then I suggest you get to it quickly.” Carter ordered.
“Of course sir, as soon as someone stops bothering me.” Gomez looked at Ryker and smirked.
“Ryker, hurry back to the Bridge and leave Gomez alone.”
Ryker shook his head, “I’ll be there as soon as I speak to Lieutenant Maya.”
“Understood. Carter out.”
“See you later?” Ryker asked her.
Gomez shrugged, “We’ll see. Work is very important to me.” She teased him and then gently pushed him on his way out.
Vakai clenched his teeth tightly together, his lips drawn back as with every heavy grunt of pain a little spiddle of saliva escapes. Soldar, who has asked several times and Vakai had delayed or given him the answer he didn’t like, has sheared off the last digit. Vakai knew that this was all just in the mind, that the pain wasn’t real, that this reality wasn’t real. But the device that they were hooked up to, made it so real that it was so difficult for him to force his mind to ignore the pain that doesn’t exist.
“You are making this more difficult than it needs to be, Vakai. But no matter,” Soldar set the shears down on the counter nearby and picked up something new. “Your resistance only makes this much more enjoyable for me.”
Vakai was so trained, so focused on trying to separate his mind from this false reality, to ignore the pain that he did not see that Soldar had picked up what looked like a flask with some sort of liquid with a top that you would only let a droplet escape if tapped just hard enough. And then suddenly, he felt the cold metal of the table on his rear and looked down to see that whatever clothing he had left was completely gone. He then looked at Soldar, his eyes wide as he saw the flask.
Soldar chuckled heavily, “I suppose you are already thinking about what this might be. Well if you had thought of acid, you are spot on.” He said before he stood there beside Vakai. “So, I will ask again. Who are your parents?”
Vakai gathered whatever saliva he had and spat at him. “I will never tell you.”
Soldar sighed, “You seem to think that resisting is going to help you win this battle. But it absolutely will not. You have no idea how much I enjoy my work, how much I enjoy torturing my prisoners. You see, it’s not about the fact that you will tell me what I need to know, it is about the fact that all those defenses you have, all those barriers that are keeping me from cracking into your mind and getting the information that I want…will eventually break down. All I have to do is, keep doing what I am doing…hurt you, even kill you repeatedly, until finally…your mind opens up to me and all that information will come rushing out as if someone had opened up the floodgates.” Soldar leaned down, resting his arms on where he could on the table and brought his face close to Vakai’s.
“I know you have been trained very well to defend your mind from torture, especially this kind of torture. But the thing is, you have not trained yourself well enough because if you did, you wouldn’t be feeling any pain. There would be no pain at all! In fact, you would be able to take control of this reality and break free from the device.” Soldar licked his lips and then smacked them. “But whoever taught you and trained you, was pathetic. You have no power here, Vakai. No one is coming to save you, no one even knows where you are. You are at the mercy of me…and I will get what I want from you and I assure you…I will enjoy torturing your parents as much as I am enjoying this.” Soldar then pushed himself off and stood up straight. “If you survive this, I may even let you watch me work on your parents. Having an audience is far more pleasing for me.” He laughed cynically before hovering the flask over a very specific area, the reason why Vakai was completely naked now. “But it seems that despite all that I have said to you, you still intend to resist. Well then I hope you enjoy the feel of acid eating away at your most precious nethers.” He then tilted the flask over and hit it hard a couple times, a single drop for each one below his waistline. As much as Vakai tried to separate his mind from the pain, this kind of pain…he could not as there was simply no way to imagine how excruciating the pain was, and to separate his mind from it was impossible at this point. And as the acid slowly ate away, Soldar stood there snickering away with his arms crossed over his chest. “If you think that is bad, wait until I give your eyes a drop!” He then laughed as Vakai continued to cry out in pain.