Lieutenant Lara Enshluggi suddenly woke up, choking back a scream. Sweat was running down her brow.
She was sitting on a bed in the corner of a dark, cold room. Tiny lights flickered here and there, and the walls of the room were dimly visible. Against the wall next to her was a bed, and a person was lying asleep on it, breathing softly and deeply.
She was in sickbay. Still in sickbay.
How long had it been since they last interrogated her?
She couldn't tell. Her body felt stiff and heavy with fatigue. She wondered if she had been drugged.
Terror filled her mind, and her body shuddered as if her insides were being clutched by a giant, icy hand. She had to try to escape. Even if she couldn't succeed, it was better to be shot while trying to flee than to have to face another interrogation!
She swung her legs over the side of her bed, and was about to stand up when a voice came over the intercom.
It was speaking Zhodani.
Surrender. The word sat on her tongue, with an ugly taste like copper. She wondered what had happened to Paul. Quickly, she glanced around the room. Perhaps there was something she could use, to end, end her -
At that moment the door opened, and two tall men stepped in.
The girl he wanted to talk to was awake. Tlienjpraviashav paid no attention to Commander Luzammi, comatose on the other bed.
The Guards Captain shoved his laser rifle into Lara's stomach as she tried to get up. "Enough," said Tlienjpraviashav, waving one hand at the soldier. "Let her be."
He pushed a little wheeled tray table with surgical instruments on it - medical scanner, laser scalpel, injection guns filled with anesthetic - next to the bed, and then dragged a chair over and sat down in front of Lara.
"What do you want from me?" she panted, eyes starting from their sockets, almost rolling in fright.
"Calm yourself, girl. I have some questions, yes."
"Have many surrendered? Or were they all killed?"
"What?" He felt hot anger flushing into his face. "What do you know -"
He stopped, and thought. Surrendered...
She meant the Imperials!
"Many have, yes," he admitted. The truth. He wrestled for control of his face; he must appear concerned, worried about the poor barbarians he would have to care for...
"Will you be taking me to them?"
"In time. We will transfer you to another ship; later, if you cooperate now, you may be rewarded."
"Oh..." She was thinking about her husband. No need to use telepathy to confirm that.
"Now, I have some questions...you knew a petty officer in the Engineering section?"
"I need your help. Where are the missile magazines located on this vessel?"
"There are several, forward and aft. There's one not too far from here..."
"Tell me about the warheads. A vessel of this class carries nuclear weapons, correct?"
"Lord..." the Captain said.
Silence! Tlienjpraviashav thought at him. "This is true?" he demanded of Lara.
"Of course. Paul used to tell me about them..."
"Which magazines are used to store them?"
"I - why do you want to know?"
"Child, this is important. You must tell me."
"I don't know anything about where they store the bombs! I'm an infantry officer, not a technician."
"Your husband - he told you where they were kept. I need you to tell me about that."
His nostrils flared. "Do not make this difficult. It will go very poorly for you, if you do."
"Look at you!"
He started back from her, surprised. A lifetime of automatic deference from everyone he met had not prepared him for this.
"You're afraid!" Lara continued.
"I fear nothing that you could do, ignorant barbarian."
"Now you're insulting! Something's wrong, isn't it?"
"You will help me, girl, or I promise -"
"Promise away. Threaten me all you want. I don't care!" She was getting hysterical. "Death is better than what you had prepared for me. I can only die once. How often could you invade my mind? Rapist!"
She spat the last word out. Enraged, Tlienjpraviashav slapped her hard across her face. She fell back on the bed, and then lunged towards him. The Guards Captain stepped forward with his rifle leveled before she could reach the Zhodani commander.
"You will tell me everything," he said, "Now."
Her eyes widened. He reached into her thoughts and began to search through her memories - Paul and her on the beach of a human-habitable planet, a holiday where they exchanged gifts, a strange furry four-legged animal with long whiskers and slitted eyes she had had a childhood attachment to -
Paul, standing onboard the Rhylanor, punching a sequence rapidly on a keypad next to a door and stepping through it as it opened.
There was a number on the door, indicating the section and bulkhead of the ship it was located in - if she could be prompted to remember...
"No!" Lara screamed.
"Be quiet!" Tlienjpraviashav leaned forward and touched her under her chin with one hand. The Guards Captain raised his rifle to cover her. She had to cooperate. He dared not use all of his strength on her - he must keep some in reserve for the task that lay ahead of him. "Girl, this will be much easier if you do not resist. You cannot hope to hold out. Do nothing, and it will be all over soon and you will be unharmed. Fight me, and -"
She tried to snatch his hand away. "Get out! Get out!" she shouted. "Get out of my mind -"
She winced and clutched her hands to her head as he unleashed his probe, directly into her consciousness. He tossed aside years of his training to be gentle and leave the subject as undamaged as possible. This was not a time for gentleness. He had to have his answers -
"Release her," a voice said in his ear, "or I will kill you where you stand."
He froze. Something was being poked into his neck. "What is the meaning of this?" he said.
Lara opened her eyes. Commander Luzammi was standing behind Tlienjpraviashav, a laser scalpel pressed to his neck. The Guards Captain was aiming his rifle at her.
"Don't think you can move quickly enough," said Luzammi. "I have this held right over your carotid artery." She jabbed him with the scalpel to make him aware of this fact. "I doubt your bodyguard is a vascular surgeon. Ironic, you'll die in a sickbay."
Lara reached out for the Captain's rifle. The officer shot a look at Tlienjpraviashav. "Give it to her," he said through gritted teeth.
Lara took the rifle and pointed it at the Captain. "Like the announcement said," Luzammi said, "His Majesty has directed us to show every mercy to those who surrender lawfully to us. Now, make this easy for - uhhh..."
Just a touch, thought Tlienjpraviashav. Just a touch of his mind to stun her. He had to conserve his power. He lunged for the door. There was a stab of pain on the side of his face, and hot blood began to flow down his neck. Lara shouted wordlessly and began to swing her rifle up. As Tlienjpraviashav dove through the doorway, the Guards Captain leapt behind him, blocking the path of Lara's shot. The captain staggered with pain and slumped down, clutching his stomach, as the door closed, the sounds of Tlienjpraviashav's boots rapidly fading in the distance. On the floor of the sickbay, one pale white ear nestled in a pool of blood at Lara's feet.