Limis could only watch helplessly as LaForge was continuously subjected to various forms of violent imagery. She kept reminding herself that revealing the details of the mission would compromise Federation security. On the other hand, she and Logan were forced to watch as their Starfleet colleague twitched and convulsed as if he was suffering a series of disturbing nightmares.
Limis remained defiant even as two of the guards pressed her head against the back of the chair. “You can stop this any time, Captain,” Tor Vot reminded her with his lips close to her ear.
“Go to hell,” Limis hissed. Bits of saliva escaped her mouth like pellets, some of them landing on his face.
Tor Vot slowly sauntered over to Logan, seated on the captain’s right with shackles also bounding his wrists and ankles to the chair. “What about you, Commander?” he asked. “Are you willing to let your colleague suffer?”
“Commander Charles H. Logan,” the commander deadpanned. “Serial number…”
“Guess so,” Tor Vot quipped. He nodded to the guard overseeing the torture of LaForge.
The guard entered a command on a padd to increase the intensity. What Geordi was now seeing caused him to let out a scream that could echo across the planet. “It’s in your hands,” Tor Vot taunted.
The guard turned up the intensity even higher, causing LaForge to throb back and forth in his chair. “Stop it, stop it!” he cried out as he was subjected to more endless images of blood and gore.
It reminded Limis more and more of instances where the Cardassians subjected her fellow Bajorans to merciless levels of agony as a means of coercion, of the cities that were bombed in order to force the Underground’s surrender. Her strength of will was commendable, considering that caving to her interrogator’s demands would compromise everything. But when being faced with individual suffering, not to mention populations being bombed out of existence, it was more than enough for anyone to endure in one lifetime. Even worse, LaForge was someone only temporarily assigned to her. Not that Limis would accept this kind of torture inflicted on a permanent member of her crew, but this situation seemed like more incentive to capitulate.
“You want to know the truth?” Limis snarled.
Tor Vot’s eyes widened in curiosity while he smiled deviously.
“Captain, what are you doing?” Logan asked with a look of shock and horror on his face.
“I know what I’m doing,” she whispered to Logan. She was almost tempted to say nothing more to Tor Vot, thinking that would wipe the smug smile off her captor’s face. “We are here to try to harness this planet’s automated defense systems, as you are,” she calmly explained. “You guys have a head start, but you’re probably not that close to integrating the computer components into your ships. Starfleet boasts some of the most creative engineers in the quadrant. You let us help, and you can have a cut of the loot.”
Tor Vot craned his neck to one side to consider Limis’s offer, but then brought his facial expression back to one of smugness. “You’re in no position to make that kind of demand.”
“Maybe not,” Limis conceded. “As much as you abhor the notion of accepting charity from the Federation and as much as I abhor the idea of offering it to you, you have to admit we have a common enemy. The Dominion hasn’t yet decided to punish your entire race for your
treachery. But how long can you guarantee it’ll stay that way?”
“You make a convincing argument,” Tor Vot acknowledged. He took a few moments to consider the captain’s proposal, pacing back and forth across the room. Upon returning to the chairs occupied by Limis and Logan, he removed their shackles, much to his second’s shock.
“How do we know she wasn’t telling us what we wanted to hear?” the second demanded.
“It’s more believable than any of her other stories,” Tor Vot explained. “And someone in her position would not have given in so easily.” He turned his gaze back at Limis to ask one more question. “But why did you let your crewman suffer before making this proposition?”
“Would you have believed me if I suggested so soon?”
“Most likely not.”
“You’re smarter than I gave you credit for.” She eyed Logan suspiciously, as their captors took care not to injure him as badly. And he was just now someone Tor Vot had tried to break rather than using Logan as a punching bag.
“Do not push your luck, Bajoran,” Tor Vot retorted. He snapped his fingers and pointed to two of the five guards, and then at LaForge’s chair to instruct those guards to keep an eye on him. “If you pull anything out of your Starfleet-issue bag of tricks,” he warned Limis, “he dies.”
“I don’t doubt it.”
“Move,” the lead guard snarled.
And the rest of the guards led Limis and Logan out of the room to one of the computer cores.
For now, the lives of two of her officers were saved. The problem now was how to pull off a double-cross against her captors with them watching her every move.
Dex sat at the primary piloting station trying feed extra power to the console and was having very little success lighting up the various keypads. He smacked the edge of the console in frustration, and the keypad on the front edge suddenly lit up. After waiting a few seconds to make sure the result of hitting the console was not a momentary fluke, he fiddled with the newly accessible controls in order to assess the functionality of the basic helm controls.
“I have helm control,” he triumphantly proclaimed with a tap of his combadge. “What about engines?”
“Just a few more circuits to rewire,” Thompson answered in a tone that suggested to Dex that he contain his enthusiasm.
Thompson was lying on right side leaning over a circuit housing trying to patch together severed wires, hoping to get the desired power flow. “ODN recoupler,” he requested of Neeley, who was standing a few steps behind him. She handed him the requested device, which he used to fuse the wires back together. “That should do it,” Thompson said with slight hesitation, “I hope.”
“You hope?” Neeley repeated with an annoyed scoff.
“It’s the best we can do without designated engineering personnel,” Thompson insisted as he propped himself upright. “All we can hope for is that everything holds together long enough for us to rescue our people and get off this planet.”
“If that’s a promise you can’t keep,” Neeley retorted, “I’ll have your head. I’ll check on the progress of our weapons.” She headed down to the lower deck through a hatch in the floor, leaving Thompson by himself to run a few more final checkups.
About a half hour later, all of the Marines convened in the cockpit. Thompson and ch’Ronchin were both at the primary tactical station while M’Zak was at operations. Neeley sat at the secondary piloting station, running a few quick status checks. “All right, let’s get this thing off the ground and find our people,” she declared.
The engines hummed to life, and the yacht slowly rose off the surface, creating a force so strong that a few surrounding trees were knocked over. The vessel rose high above the trees before moving forward.
“Get a fix on the control center,” Neeley commanded M’Zak. “See if you locate our people without attracting the attention of whoever is already down there. “Let’s hope those sensor modifications are still intact.”
“I’ve located their biosigns,” the Caitian soldier immediately reported, her words accompanied by the sound of a feline’s purring.
That caught Neeley’s surprise. “Already?” she gasped. “That seems rather fast, but we’ll take it. Find us an inconspicuous spot to beam down, Thompson.”
“Done,” Thompson replied. “Dex, weapons and transporters are routed to your console.”
“No problem,” Dex confidently answered. But almost immediately, he felt a pang of doubt. “Which one is weapons?”
Thompson sighed impatiently and took a few quick steps over to the piloting console. “That one,” he said, indicating a circular arrangement of panels on the younger man’s right. “Don’t let us down, kid.”
“I’ll try,” Dex muttered, turning his attention back to his console.
LaForge was still hunched over in his chair, drifting in and out of consciousness, while two Sindareen guards stood watch in front of him.
Corporals ch’Ronchin and M’Zak peered into the room through an open doorway, which immediately caught the attention of the guards. The guard on their left started shooting at them while the man on the right pointed his rifle at LaForge. After having ducked out of the way, the two Marines fired back, quickly dispatching the guards.
M’Zak stood watch at the doorway while ch’Ronchin tiptoed up to Geordi and loosened his shackles. “Sir,” he said, patting the commander’s cheeks with his palms to coax him awake. “Are you all right? Are you well enough to travel?”
“I think so,” Geordi groaned. “Got a massive headache from whatever it was they did to me.”
Ch’Ronnick injected a sub-dermal transport enhancer into LaForge’s neck and tapped his combadge to signal yacht. “Ensign Hall, lock on to Commander LaForge and transport him to the infirmary.”
“Yes, sir,” Dex replied. “Standing by.”
A few seconds later, LaForge was beamed to safety. Ch’Ronnick then jogged towards the doorway, pointing to it with his forefinger to inform M’Zak to accompany him. The Andorian and Caitian troops tiptoed quietly down a corridor on their way to rejoining Neeley and Thompson. A Sindareen guard peered out from an adjoining corridor behind them and fired.
A lethal charge struck M’Zak, and she fell to the deck. Ch’Ronnick looked down at his fallen colleague, but forced back himself into concentrating on the Sindareen shooting at him. They exchanged blinding weapons fire back and forth. The Sindareen ran across the corridor while continuing to lay down cover fire. Ch’Ronnick was able to get a clear shot at that moment and quickly dropped him with a single burst from his phaser rifle. Seeing no further resistance, he had time to check on M’Zak. He touched her neck with two fingers to check for a pulse, but felt nothing.
Neeley and Thompson peered through the holes in an iron wall that surrounded the central computer core. Thompson was surprised to see that Limis and Logan were helping the Sindareen remove various components. Of course, he knew to save the speculation for later and work out a strategy for taking out the eight guards.
“We’ll need to even the odds a bit,” Neeley mused. She tapped her combadge to hail the yacht. “Dex, lock onto my coordinates and open fire.”
“On your coordinates, sir?”
Dex repeated with confusion.
“Yes, do it,” Neeley replied with a hissing whisper.
The room suddenly shook hard, having all the room’s occupants stumbling to keep their balances. Sparks erupted from the ceiling, sending two Sindareen to the deck. Logan used the moment of confusion to knock one of his guards with a right hook that caused sharp and throbbing pains in his hand, and he quickly found himself in a scuffle with his other guard.
Tor Vot grabbed Limis by her uniform collar and slammed her to the floor. “You bitch!” he sneered. “You had this planned all along.”
“Guess you’re not that smart after all,” Limis quipped.
He drew his pistol, ready to kill her in a fit of rage. He was slowed down when a blast from Neeley’s rifle clipped him in the shoulder. Limis used that reprieve to grab one of the unconscious guard’s pistol. And with one motion, she aimed it at Tor Vot and shot him dead. While she was far from out of danger, killing a man who had been a thorn in her side on two recent occasions felt extremely satisfying.
Neeley and Thompson entered through room through an open doorway, shooting at the other four Sindareen still standing, while ch’Ronnick was shooting from behind as he came in from an open doorway on the opposite side. He managed to dispatch the guard who was scuffling with Logan, leaving only three enemy soldiers.
The rest of the Starfleet team easily overpowered the rest of them with phaser fire. But as one of them collapsed to the deck, he managed to fire his pistol and kill Thompson.
Neeley kneeled over Thompson’s lifeless body and felt for a pulse. She looked at Limis and dejectedly shook her head. “Where’s M’Zak?” she asked ch’Ronnick through an eerie quiet in the room.
“Dead,” the Andorian somberly replied.
Neeley dropped her head down, as did the other three in the room, in a moment of silence to honor her two dead soldiers. Afterwards, she removed a cloth carrying case housing three transport enhancer rods. She handed two of them to Limis and ch’Ronnick, who placed the rods near the two doorways. Neeley placed the third rod against a wall, setting all three of the rods in a triangular arrangement.
“This is Neeley,” she said with a tap of her combadge. “Lock onto all persons and equipment in this room and energize.”
And within another few seconds, all the people in the room, including the dead bodies, and the dislodged computer components dematerialized.