Chapter 5 <cont'd>
Edward Jellico wasn’t familiar with the specific species of carnivorous beast that was tearing him apart, and given the circumstances, that hardly seemed to matter. However, for some strange reason, it did matter, at least to him. If he were to die at its hands –jaws
– whatever – Jellico felt he should at least know what to call it. The violence and intensity of its attack seemed so personal, so intimate, that it practically demanded they be on something akin to a first name basis.
He kicked at it with his legs and beat its snout with his bloodied hands to no avail. The creature tore gaping holes in his side with its massive, knife-like teeth. Jellico screamed and struggled, but eventually weakened by blood loss, his flailing defense slackened and he lay there, helpless, as the ravenous monster savaged his abused body.
Life was restored to him, and once again Jellico found himself hanging, naked, suspended above the floor in a shaft of white light. He cried out in agony, only to realize the grievous wounds he’d suffered were gone. The mental anguish, the pure horror and psychic trauma remained. That, Jellico had realized some time ago, was entirely the point.
“Did you enjoy that more or less than yesterday’s sinoraptor?” Ramirez inquired as she approached Jellico’s hovering form.
“The sinoraptor was quicker about it,” Jellico admitted.
Ramirez chuckled. “Gods but you’re a tough old bastard, aren’t you Ed?”
He grimaced. “The Cardassians found that out the hard way, didn’t they?”
"You always gave them cause for caution," she confirmed.
"I taught you to watch your back in their presence," he reminded her.
“Not going to work,” she responded cheerily. “Highlighting old times and shared experiences in an attempt to forge an emotional connection with your captor. Come on now, I took all the same survival courses you did, Admiral.”
Jellico grunted, “Had to try.”
“And so you have.” She stood watching him, her arms folded across her chest as she appeared to appraise his mental and physical condition.
“Are you through playing with your prey, Liana?” Jellico asked crossly. “There’s no tactical advantage to this, and you know it. All my access codes would have been changed as soon as they realized I was missing.”
“You know the numbers and disposition of the incoming Starfleet second wave,” Ramirez pointed out.
“What of it?”
“You’re going to tell me all you know.”
He laughed hoarsely in response. “Really? You think so? If what you’ve subjected me to so far is the best you’re capable of, you’re in for a disappointment young lady.”
Ramirez’s eyes narrowed. “You actually think taunting me is in your best interests?”
“When I was second officer aboard the Königsberg
, I was captured by the Cardassians during a intel team extraction. I spent three months as a ‘guest’ of the Fourth Order, interrogated daily by Gul Rusko. Now that man was an artist with pain, a master of neural-synaptic induction. You? You’re a fucking amateur!”
A slow smile spread across Ramirez’s face. “Now, Edward, that sounds like a challenge.”
Jellico’s eyes flamed as he looked down at her from within the suspensor field. “As intended, bitch.”
T’Ser caught up with him as Sandhurst was dispatching an engineering team to begin dismantling the main warp reactor. Dozens of specialists from other departments had been put to work sealing up Galaxy’s
hull breaches and shoring up the saucer’s structural integrity while the majority of Europa’s
engineering compliment worked to rebuild the propulsion system.
She waited until the team had exited the corridor before turning to face Sandhurst with a dark expression. "Permission to speak freely, Commodore?"
"Granted," he answered distractedly.
“Respectfully, sir, don’t ever
put me in that position again.”
Sandhurst turned his attention from the schematic flimsy in his hands to his former XO, looking genuinely perplexed. “Captain?”
“I had to sit there and defend you to the others, after you went and pulled the most ridiculous, infantile stunt I’ve ever seen!”
“Stunt?” Sandhurst’s face colored. “That was no stunt. The whole lot of them were wringing their hands and stalling instead of taking appropriate action to restructure an operational chain-of-command.”
T’Ser wasn’t backing down, however. “They were in collective shock, Commodore. It happens on occasion, even to people of their caliber.”
“Shock?” Sandhurst crowed incredulously. “Shock is losing over two-hundred ships in one day trying to retake Betazed from the Jem’Hadar. Today some of the finest captains in the fleet curled into a ball and started sucking their collective thumb because two senior officers fell in the line of duty within twenty-four hours of one another!”
“So you anoint yourself grand high chieftain of the tribe and call all of them on the carpet? How did that help our situation? In five minutes you singlehandedly destroyed all the credibility you’ve established over the past two years.”
“I can’t abide hesitation, not with so much at stake,” he replied, his voice fairly trembling with conviction. “They had no plan!”
“They would have made the appropriate notifications and accessed Jellico’s orders in less than a day,” she countered. “There was no need for all the theatrics.”
He looked at her with eyes that hinted at something that hadn’t been there before the Amon. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m the man I was, Captain,” he breathed softly. “I’ve seen things you can’t imagine, accessed mental faculties unreachable by even the kolinahr
masters.” He raised his right hand, holding it aloft with fingers outspread. “Push my hand down.”
T’Ser’s stare was equal measures skepticism and concern. “What?”
“You’re Vulcan, Captain. Your muscular density is twice my own, your overall physical strength three times that of the average human. So… push my hand down.”
She pressed her hand against his, and moved to drive it towards the floor.
It didn’t budge.
T’Ser pressed harder, widening her feet to increase her leverage, but still Sandhurst’s arm could not be moved.
“Taiee’s medical scans all came back baseline normal, so there’s no way I should be able to do this,” he observed as T’Ser’s arm began to tremble with the effort to displace his own. “That’s enough, Captain,” Sandhurst said finally.
Her arm fell limply to her side as she glared at Sandhurst with suspicion. “You said you were fine.”
“I am, T’Ser. Better than fine, actually.”
Her expression was accusatory. “How can I believe that, sir?”
“Your belief isn’t necessary. I have faith enough for the both of us. I’m the right person at exactly the right place at precisely the right time, and I’ve been gifted with the tools we’ll need to overcome what’s ahead.” He stared past her, as if looking into the abyss. “What we’ve experienced so far is only the first squall of the coming storm.”
“And you know this how?” she asked.
“I can feel it in my bones, T’Ser,” he said faintly. “In my bones…”