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Part of USS Endeavour: Fire and Ice

Fire and Ice – 8

ISS Endeavour
August 2400
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‘What, it wasn’t a fancy enough brig?’ Cortez complained as she and Doctor Sadek were roughly shoved into a new cell. They’d been frog-marched down from what she now saw was a relatively small holding facility, because here there were rows and rows of cells, and they were not empty.

‘That’s temporary,’ grunted Sadek, catching herself against the bulkhead after the guard’s push. ‘This is a prison.’

It was still dark here, too dark to easily see in the cell opposite, and Cortez slunk to the back to sink onto the gloom-shrouded bunk. ‘If they’re right, and they know how to make the jump, and they’re going to do it within a day… we’re really screwed.’

‘I know.’ Sadek glared at the forcefield projector.

‘Nobody will know what happened to us. Nobody will be able to rescue us. There’s so many points of -’

‘I know.’

Cortez looked up and frowned. ‘I’m not a junior officer,’ she pointed out. ‘You don’t have to put on a brave face for me. I’m working through the reality of this situation, not freaking out.’

‘Maybe I’m freaking out.’

‘Reasonable reaction.’ Cortez sighed, shaking her head. ‘Dathan. That’s messed up. Like, we never knew the real Dathan? She was lying to us all along? I don’t know if I believe that. She fought with us against the D’Ghor, she was with the captain at Tagrador. I can’t believe she betrayed us.’

‘You must be new,’ came a low voice from the dark beyond their cell, from the archway opposite them in the long corridor of containment facilities. ‘Betrayal’s the lifeblood of these people.’

Cortez’s back seized up in recognition, but Sadek didn’t seem to have picked up on this, turning towards the forcefield. ‘Who are you?’

Shadows moved from the opposite cell for a pair of silhouetted figures to appear. ‘No way,’ said someone who looked a lot like Saeihr Kharth. ‘You’ve got a lot of explaining to do first.’

Next to her, the tall shape of Karana Valance nodded. ‘Because you look like two people who’ve made our lives hell.’

‘This isn’t my first time dealing with telepathic xenos.’ The voice of Doctor Sadek of the ISS Endeavour had lost that teasingly sultry tone, echoing in the gloom of her lab. Thawn couldn’t see her for the bright light bearing down on the chair she was strapped into; could only see the circle of illumination and shifting shadows beyond.

‘I know what your capabilities feel like,’ Sadek continued, and there was the clink of metal tools on a metal tray. ‘If I so much as imagine you are in my mind, you will regret it.’

When she was a child, Thawn would have reached out with her mind when terrified. She would have reached out for those close to her, felt their presence, felt reassured by the connection. She’d learnt early on after leaving Betazed to stop doing that, that her classmates and colleagues found that an intrusion. And she’d only learnt in Starfleet the true meaning of fear – fear for her life, fear for the lives of others.

After ten years of relearning how to feel, relearning how to connect, fear no longer made her reach out, even in defence. Fear made her close up. Almost.

Almost, because she could see another figure stood at the edge of the ring of light. Shadowed as he was, Noah Pierce looked so believably like the man she’d known, the man who’d died in front of her a year and a half ago. Even at the edges of her thoughts, the feel of him was familiar. She knew that if she looked closer, she’d see the ways he was wrong. If she stretched out with her mind, she’d feel the ways he was wrong.

So she didn’t, and as her head fell to the side, she couldn’t help but croak, ‘Noah…’

His eyes fell on her. ‘Don’t talk to me.’

But there was another move from Sadek in the darkness. ‘No, no, Lieutenant,’ said the doctor, sounding intrigued. ‘Her brain waves are doing something very interesting in response to you. I have a spectrum of scans of telepathic brain waves from home, but any parallels I can draw will be fascinating.’

‘I don’t know what you’re trying to do,’ Thawn managed to gasp through the tightness in her throat. ‘Telepaths aren’t all linked, that’s not how this works…’

‘But are you linked to your other self? We’ve conducted enough experiments in this nebula to create several quantum micro-singularities. If you can impact and influence through that…’

There were too many implications. Being used against her own people, being used against people she’d never met. Even though she didn’t think Sadek had a clue how telepathy really worked, it could be a long, slow, painful road to figuring out this was a dead end. If this was a dead end.

She could give Sadek nothing. Cooperate not one jot. But as Thawn felt a vice-like device from above sinking to a tight grip around her brow, as she felt the first, minor – for now – jolt of electric stimulation to likely provoke more changes in her brainwaves, she couldn’t help but look at the implacable face of Noah Pierce.

He’d died a year ago. And yet he was here, even if he was a part of this, even if he didn’t care. He was still here.

He was still here, even as she began to scream.

‘…there’s a lot of resistance against the Terran Empire.’ The Valance from the other universe by now sat in her cell with her back to the wall as she explained. ‘Klingons and Romulans have banded together to try to throw them out from our space.’

Cortez struggled to take her eyes off this Valance. She’d stayed quiet as Sadek explained, sat with her knees up under her chin listening, watching.

Valance at last seemed to pick up on this, shifting her weight as she ran a finger along one of the ridges on her brow. ‘I’m Klingon,’ she sneered at the attention. ‘These dogs have made it clear there’s nothing human about me.’

‘This ship was hunting down our unit near Romulus,’ Kharth sighed. ‘Our vessel was disabled and they beamed us aboard. We thought we’d be interrogated and killed. But then we were left down here for a while. We think that battle was when something happened to get this ship trapped in this other universe.’ She shrugged. ‘Like that makes a difference to us in here.’

‘You’ve been prisoners for two years?’ Cortez breathed.

Kharth gave her a languid look. ‘While the other you has been trying to punch a way back home.’

‘And the other you,’ said Valance, eyes turning on Sadek, ‘has experimented on the rest of our unit to figure out the differences between bodies across realities. Or that’s what she says. I think she’s just wanted an excuse to be sick and torture people to death.’

Cortez and Sadek exchanged looks. ‘Thawn,’ murmured Cortez.

‘If you were brought aboard with non-humans,’ said Valance, ‘and Sadek has them? They might not be dead yet. They will be dead soon. Days, perhaps.’

‘I don’t know,’ sighed Kharth. ‘If these two are right and this ship is about to jump back, Sadek might get distracted. So, lucky you. You get to see our world and then eventually die in it.’

‘You should worry about yourselves,’ Valance agreed. ‘It’s what you humans are good at.’

Again, Cortez and Sadek looked at each other. ‘Not so much in this universe,’ the doctor mused. ‘If people were better at worrying about themselves, it might make my job easier.’

‘Well, kiss that hope goodbye,’ said Valance. She slumped back to rest her head against the wall and closed her eyes. ‘You’ll never see it again. And when Endeavour gets back to our universe, it’s going to unleash untold hell on our people.’

Kharth shifted. ‘We don’t know how things have been in our absence -’

‘It can’t have gotten better,’ Valance snapped. ‘And this is one of the foremost warships in the Empire. If it returns…’

But thudding footsteps down the corridor cut them short, and a pair of figures appeared in front of the forcefield to Cortez and Sadek’s cell. The engineer was on her feet in a flash, looking to the slumped and smaller of the two. ‘Thawn…’

With a hiss, the forcefield was turned off just long enough for Noah Pierce to shove her in before he re-established the lock. Thawn staggered, stumbled, then fell hard on the deck. Pierce curled his lip. ‘We’ll try again before we jump,’ he grunted. ‘Try to cooperate more, and she’ll hurt you less.’

Cortez had never thought of Sadek as particularly nurturing. But she’d moved to bundle up the tumbled pile of Thawn in a heartbeat, dragging the young officer into her arms as Thawn curled up tight and shivered.

‘Easy, easy,’ Sadek breathed. ‘We’ve got you.’

In the opposite cell Valance was on her feet, hand next to the forcefield generator. ‘What did you tell them?’ she demanded.

Cortez took one look at Thawn, shuddering and whimpering and barely aware of the outside world, and lifted her hands to Valance. ‘Give her a moment,’ she said softly.

‘Anything they learn,’ spat Valance, ‘is a weapon to be used against my people when this ship gets back.’

But Kharth hadn’t stood, closing her eyes. ‘Let them look out for their own, Kar,’ she sighed. ‘It’s all they can do here.’

The two resistance fighters exchanged a look, and Cortez watched Valance’s face and read the shift in emotions clearly – channelled anger turning to faint indignation at being stopped short, turning to iron control as she acquiesced. Only normally it was her, Cortez, who could bring about that emotional journey. Now the begrudging, fond acceptance was turned on Kharth.

Cortez couldn’t help but turn her eyes skyward. Jealousy is the dumbest feeling to have right now.

She turned back to Sadek and Thawn and sank to one knee next to them, reached out to bring a hand to Thawn’s shoulder. ‘We got you,’ she said, trying to sound convincing.

‘I don’t…’ Thawn screwed her eyes shut. ‘I can feel everyone on this ship, and they all… Great Fire, they’re so full of fear and hate… She wanted me to feel it.’

‘You don’t have to tell us,’ Sadek said softly. ‘Rest.’

Thawn had been barely coherent when she’d first come in, but now she seemed to realise it was Sadek whose arms were wrapped around her, and with a panicked whimper she shoved her off, backpedalled on feet and hands across the cell to slam her back against the wall.

‘Oh,’ breathed Sadek with horror, and backed off. ‘I’m sorry, Rosara.’

So Cortez moved over, hunkering down and staying low. ‘The doc can stay over there,’ she said soothingly. ‘Will you let me come over?’

Thawn’s expression was already sinking into shock and guilt at her own reaction, and she gave a muted nod, let Cortez sit next to her and wrap an arm around her. It was, Cortez thought, probably for the best when she slumped against her shoulder and began to sob. It was about the only thing that might help.

With a groan, Cortez pressed her head back against the bulkhead, and closed her eyes. In the distance she could hear the low voices of the other Valance and Kharth, hear the taut breathing of Sadek. But there was nothing more to say, nothing more to do.

We’re going to die in here.

She didn’t know how long they were down there. They had only a day before it was too late, and no idea how to make the most of this time. They had no idea what time was any more.

So it could have been an hour, a day, a lifetime before there were footsteps again down the corridor. These sounded different – not the stiff marching but a quicker, more urgent beat, and that had Cortez open her eyes, look up with curiosity. Kharth and Valance stirred, too.

Her heart lunged into her chest when she saw only one figure stood before the cells, gripping a phaser rifle, and nearly exploded with delight when Adamant Rhade reached to a control panel and killed the forcefields.

‘It’s time,’ he said in a low, urgent voice, ‘for us to leave.’