Telvan's Leap 8: Romulan Hospitality
The Bulikaya Particle
Location: Romulan Prison
This time when Enalia appeared the only light came from her own appearance and her eyes had to adjust to the nearly pitch dark of what smelled to be a very well used and musty prison cell. After a few moments her eyes did adjust to a small bit of light that was filtering in through the bars on the door and she was able to see that she was indeed inside of a dirt floored cell with one other occupant, a steel bed, and what looked to be a steel pot for toiletries.
This did not bode well. Especially if she was going to be here for just over an hour.
The air was thick with the smell of waste, bodily odor, mold and something else Enalia faintly recognized. By the bars to the cell, was a mostly empty feeding tray with just enough almost-rotten food in it for the well-traveled Trill to recognize. It was some of the worst smelling Viinerine she had ever smelled, and that realization made her stomach tighten.
Viinerine was a staple of Romulan military and prisons.
From the steel bed, the shape under the filthy rag of a sheet stirred lightly and a gravely voice whispered out. “Go away.”
“I would if I could,” the interdimensional visitor whispered as she kneeled down, doing her best to minimize her presence. “I’m stuck in here, same as you.”
At the voice, the woman in the bed jolted up with a surprise. It was, of course, another version of Enalia. Her face was dirty and her long black hair had a bit of gray in it now, visible in the dim light from the corridor outside the narrow cell. As the other Enalia tilted her head, there were a few visible scars on her once smooth face. “What… what is this? What are you?”
The other Enalia scooched up on the bed, putting her back up against the cold stone wall as she reached down below the bed reaching for her bedpan to use as a makeshift weapon. It was a telling detail of the room that her captors would allow such a thing in arms reach of a woman as dangerous as Enalia generally was, and the uniform-clad woman didn’t like the implications.
The visiting Enalia shook her head and sighed softly. This wasn’t going to be easy, was it? “I’m you from another universe. There was an accident and I’ve been bouncing between realities for a while now.” While that explanation worked with those she met that were reasonable and sane, the look in this version of her’s eyes did not look like she was willing to listen.
“Nooooo…. Noooooo… I don’t believe you.” Came the voice that cracked as if it hadn’t been given call to speak in days if not longer. “You’re trying to trick me. You’re… you’re trying to take me?! You’re another one of THEM! I don’t… NO!”
The woman’s voice was clearly ramping up into full on panic as her eyes went wide. Grabbing the bedpan, she brought it up shakily, but not as a weapon. Slamming it repeatedly against the bars, the other Enalia began to shriek, “HELP!!!! HELP!!!! Please, Help me!!!!”
Enalia sighed once more as she stood back up. She couldn’t very well knock herself out or escape or really, do anything that would help the situation so she just stood there and waited for either the local Enalia to calm down or a guard to come by and see what the noise was about. Honestly, she was expecting the latter.
Seconds later, a somewhat irritated Romulan guard shuffled over to the cell with a bored expression on his face. An expression that changed very rapidly. “What? I’ve told you before not to disturb me, woman.”
The man in the coal gray, quilted uniform and the standard, military cut was speaking in a slightly guttural Romulan as his eyes met Enalia’s and then went wide. Pulling his disruptor and aiming it through the bars, he shouted through. “You there! How… Stand still! Put your arms over your head, turn around and face the wall, NOW!!!!”
Moving slowly, the uniformed and clean Enalia complied, her hands raised over her head, her feet shoulder width apart just in case, and turned to face the wall. “I am complying! Please stay calm! I will explain!” she replied in her own accented Romulan.
“SILENCE!” The guard shouted as he tapped his commbadge and began whispering inaudibly into it. A moment later, Enalia could hear a large number of boots on the cold, stone floor as clearly more guards had come.
“Do not move until you are ordered to, woman.” Said a different, far colder voice she didn’t recognize while, on the cot, her counterpart began to whimper.
“Don’t… don’t let them take me, Centurion. P… Please don’t let them take me.” Came the completely broken voice that, in spite of being the same person, Enalia could barely recognize.
“Fear not, you are safe. We will protect you.” Came the cold voice in reply.
There was a loud clang as the cage door was pulled open and Enalia felt a sharp stink as two, metal prongs pressed into her lower back. “Move, and you will be stunned, woman. And our stun rods are not so gentle as a Starfleet phaser. The station commander would have words with you.”
Another guard came and harshly pulled her arms down, clamping restraints upon them. As the restraints locked, there was a slight sensation of a charge running up her arms that she recognized. But her thoughts were confirmed a moment later.
“A neural disruption field. Step one step back and turn around.” The cold voice said. “Move any faster than a steady walk, and your nervous system will not be pleased with your decision.”
Seeing the room, there were now six additional guards in the corridor and the original guard who came was gone. Stepping back outside the gate, the lead guard stood and eyed Enalia for a moment before speaking to one of the other guards. “Centurion ir-Krath. The Commander wants a complete scan. Remove her communication device and rank insignia. Ensure there are no other transmitters or devices.”
“Aye.” Came the voice of a shorter, but thickly built female guard who pulled out a tricorder-like device and aimed it at Enalia while she stepped over and pulled the Commbadge and pips from her uniform.
“Four pips. A Starfleet Captain? Will wonders never cease.” The head guard said with a bit of a sneer in his voice. “What is your name, Starfleet Captain?”
Without thinking, Enalia started rattling off her Starfleet information. “Captain Enalia Telvan Service number PN-495-8741 AZI. Galaxy PRI Theta One rotational decay 997.”
Immediately, at the sound of her own name, the captive Enalia flinched and put her hands over her ears. Shaking her head, she began to mutter “Nonononononono…”
“Shhhh... “ The head guard said with an almost gentle voice to the prisoner as he smiled lightly towards Enalia. “Interesting. The administrator will certainly want to talk with you.” The head Centurion said with a nod. “Do not speak again until you are spoken to, Starfleet Captain.”
Rather than reply, the visiting Enalia just looked down on her broken local self with a mix of self loathing and pity and nodded, wondering just what had happened to push the woman... to push herself so far past breaking. She just had to survive here for an hour... One hour...
“Step forward into the corridor, and walk as instructed.” The head Centurion said in a calm, measured voice. In the narrow corridor, the lights were dim and wherever they were was damp and cold as the guards broke into groups of three, above and behind, with the main guard walking at the front of the line.
Walking, they passed another few cells, each far too dark to see the occupants within, but the architecture looked ancient. FAR too old to be a modern facility, indicating that this must have been the kind of prison that the Romulan put those they wished to forget.
At the end of the hall, was a slightly more modern lift, but only partially so. It was rusted green and maroon metal and looked like something from closer to Rita Paris’ era than anything current. Loading in, the walls of the lift were plastisteel, which allowed Enalia a glimpse of just what kind of facility they were in as it began to ascend up. By her count, they passed 23 stories, each appearing to be an antiquated, concrete prison structure built deep into the rockface of wherever this was. Wherever it was, she saw no sign of anything approaching natural light.
As the lift stopped, the doors opened into a long corridor of old, dripping pipes and stained concrete walls. Above was a metal grate and there were drainage furloughs in the floor to allow water runoff. At the entrance of the lift and near every break or turn in the labyrinthine tunnel, there were pairs of armed guards in light armor. Walking to the end of the corridor, they approached a set of green double doors with only the words ’Telaet Fvrihai’ upon them: ’Senior Administrator’.
Pressing the older security pad with the palm of his hand, the doors opened and two of the guards directed Enalia into the larger, and decidedly more opulent office. The room was a circular space with a series of bookshelves lining each corner that looked fairly well-read, all things considered. The floor was a shined marble inset with the sigil of the Romulan Empire etched with gold trimming around it. There were two, short backed leather chairs in front of a curved, ornately carved wooden desk. Behind the desk was a large picture window that overlooked a dark, slightly greenish sky with craggy mountains in the background. Wherever they were, it wasn’t Romulus.
Standing in front of the window with a PaDD in hand, was a slightly hippy, older Romulan woman in a greenish-gray uniform. Her hair was a bit longer than the standard military cut and pulled up on the top of her head, a warm grayish brown. Unlike Mnhei’sahe, her grandmother or Jaeih, when she turned, the woman had raised forehead ridges.
“Leave us, Centurions.” The woman said, her voice throaty and deep. With a quick snap of a salute, the head guard lead the others out and the door shut and locked behind them.
“Sit.” The Administrator said terseley without once looking up from her PaDD.
With a further glance around the room, the interdimensional traveler gracefully sat in one of the leather chairs across from the Administrator - the one that was classically afforded to the higher ranked visitor if there were two and had the best view across the desk. With her hands bound behind her it wasn’t the most comfortable chair, but Enalia was good at making uncomfortable look comfortable so she leaned into it and crossed her legs in a practiced mimicry of her first officer’s signature move.
Then, with a stoic look on her face, she waited. After all, the more time this administrator wasted, the more time she survived in this universe - and judging by the look of this office, this woman was another sadist in a mid ranked position and she’d dealt with a few of them in her life.
“Captain Enalia Telvan Service number PN-495-8741 AZI. Galaxy PRI Theta One rotational decay 997”, The Administrator said, looking at the PaDD as she rounded the desk to stand to the side and look Enalia up and down. “How unfortunate for us that we already have one. However, according to these scans, you match the DNA and genetic patterns. How is this possible?”
With a pleasant and almost sickeningly sweet Starfleet smile, Enalia replied as honestly and cheerfully as she could - that was the Starfleet way, after all. “An accident in my own dimension sent me hopping to other dimensions. If you scan my quantum signature, you’ll see that mine doesn’t match hers.”
"I have." She replied, waving her PaDD lightly before setting it on the table. "I did so want to hear the explanation, as it will help us identify the mechanism of that process when we autopsy you, Captain."
"Now, that gives me the how. Tell me the why?" The icy administrator said with a raised eyebrow. "Was your plan to liberate my guest? You have no technological means of escape I or my active sensors can detect."
When she spoke, her eyes went down to the large, metal cuffs as she picked up the PaDD again, pushed a button and showed it to Enalia for a moment so she could see the steady stream of biological scan data flowing into it. Everything from the quantum fluctuation to blood pressure and galvanic skin responses. “So you know not to bother lying, Captain.”
“I’m not prone to lying when the truth will do nicely,” Enalia replied, looking over the data with interest, trying to find the particles responsible for her visit to this reality. “As for why I’m here, it’s completely random. I’ve visited mirror, low ranked, philanthropist, and conqueror versions of myself. I even dueled myself with a sword in one reality. It’s been quite the experience and I don’t entirely recommend it.”
“Hmmm. Fascinating. I will enjoy studying this data.” She said before getting up and beginning to pace behind the chair where Enalia couldn’t see her. “That said, I am being rude. My name is Tialla t’Vask. I am the Administrator of this facility. Since you did not direct your unplanned visit here, I’m sure you have a question or two. Some, I may even be willing to indulge, Captain.”
“I admit that I do have a few curiosities,” the spotted woman replied nodding her head and paying close attention to the data scrolling across the screen. “As I have neither the intention of outwardly interfering in the flow of your reality, nor the capability...”
“As a Pirate Queen, I know of many ways to both break a person and avoid being broken myself, including techniques on how to survive your Neural Extraction Converter.” Here, Enalia raised an eyebrow and glanced over her shoulder at the Romulan woman. “From the looks of it, my local counterpart did not.”
“How refreshing. You didn’t bother asking any of the more banal questions you knew well enough that I couldn’t answer, such as what and where this facility is.” t’Vask said with a slight grin. “Not wasting any time. I can respect that. Instead, it is your ego that has its first question.”
“You see a version of yourself and think… ’I cannot be broken’. And so, your mind immediately goes in search of an answer.” The cold-blooded Romulan woman said as she rounded back to her desk. Looking out the window, she continued. “My Captain Telvan was similarly confident in her will and resistance when she was delivered to me. So very full of fire and rage.”
“She killed THREE of my guards in her first, failed escape attempt, you know?” t’Vask said, sitting down and tenting her fingers on the desk as she met Enalia’s gaze. “She was quite angry, as you might imagine, all things considered of how she arrived here. I’m surprised you were not overtly curious about that, really.”
“By the looks of it, she’s been here around a year, maybe a bit less. The only time I was in Romulan space was about then so I surmised that sometime during the rescue of one of my people, she was unsuccessful.” With a nod to the Administrator, Enalia continued, knowing that her last question was far from answered - the woman had danced around the truth and tried to tell her nothing. “And that was my next question. Was it the fight on the landing pad that she was captured? Did she selflessly stay behind so the rest could escape? Was it some bleeding heart Starfleet ideal like that? Because if it was, I’m selfless, but I’m not sure I’m quite that selfless.”
“Ahhh, the Delevhas Compound in Oh'hayo. I’ve seen the security footage of your admirable performance that day.” t’Vask said with a light smile. “Where you and a team of officers in disguise as Romulan officers and Centurions attempted to liberate your Romulan crewmate. An unofficial, unauthorized action that one might say was the definition of selfless. If one were so inclined.”
“Yes, that was where, but your HOW was a bit more dramatic than that.” Holding up the PaDD, t’Vask pushed a button and the window behind her went blank for a moment, revealed to be a holographic screen. Then, on that screen, security footage of the rescue of Mnhei’sahe Dox on the platform began to play. “I could tell you, but I think you might find this more interesting.”
Pressing a button, the file began to play and for a moment, it had gone as it had before. In the control booth, Thex and Varnok had locked down the access tunnel keeping the phalanx of backup from reaching the landing platform. Sonak and herself were fighting Riov Dalia Rendal’s centurions with Az’Prel and a freed Dox, alongside Jaeih with the crashed Scorpion she had stolen. Then, everything changed.
The young Cardassian that she had since learned was a deep cover sleeper for the Tal’Shiar, a victim of the same Neural Extraction Converter now in Starfleet Custody, turned his weapon on Thex and fired at point blank range. The azure engineer vanished in a screaming streak of green and the revealed traitor opened the access. Dozens of armed and armored guards rushed out and surrounded the survivors, overwhelming them.
In the Melee, Jaeih was killed by Rendal’s blade and Sonak was badly wounded by disruptor fire. As had happened the first time, Rita and the camouflaged Cyclone fighters revealed themselves, attacking the throngs of troops. But this time, with far too many numbers, the Rendal’s forces successfully shot down the two, unmanned fighters. And that was when the Enalia proved herself a selfless Starfleet captain, grabbing Dox and ordering Az’Prel to take the young Romulan woman to Rita’s ship and get them all out before it was too late.
Sitting there, her hands bound, t’Vask’s eyebrow raised and she smirked slightly as she watched Enalia’s blood pressure rise just a bit. On the screen, she watched as Rita, Sonak and Dox only barely escaped while she and Az’Prel were taken. After a few minutes, the screen went dark and the administrator spoke again.
“As you can see… VERY selfless. Starfleet would have been proud if they had ever seen any of this. But officially, you never came here. There was no rescue mission. And they were wholly unwilling to admit to anything that would have caused an intergalactic incident, of course. And you have been my… guest… ever since.” She finished. “Questions?”
“That looks like it went about as badly as initial projections said it could have. In my reality Varnok waited to betray us until our next fight with Rendal in the...” Here Enalia had to look back in her memory for the name of the nebula they were in. “Ah, the Aldeberan nebula, where he copied and dumped almost all our data on protomatter research.”
As she spoke, she did her best to get her heart rate and breathing back at normal rates. “Honestly, with so many security breaches over the years, I have to wonder if Starfleet is intentionally sending us people they suspect are moles intentionally just so we can expose them. The downside is that we have all these security breaches.”
“How very clinical of you, Captain. And a valiant attempt at containing that heart rate. Worthy of Tal’Shiar training at the very least.” t’Vask said with a light smile. “I am in no position to comment on Starfleet policy or your own ship’s clearly poor security screening processes. I can only speak of what I know.”
“Riov Rendal had at least one of her prizes and she delivered to me two of my own to break.” She said coldly, “Which did have it’s moments. Your Vulcan friend was of little use to me. She had very little useful information on your ship not being an actual officer. So we played with her for a time. Her resistance to torture was so impressive that it gave me a tremendous opportunity to test out new ideas that I had been batting around.”
“Until she simply became too dangerous to keep. So we instead learned a significant amount about her own unique quantum irregularities from her broken down DNA. It was quite scientifically fascinating, really.” t’Vask finished, tilting her head to see if that elicited a reaction beyond just what the readings were giving her.
Rather than giving the expected reaction, Enalia remained in Stoic Pirate Queen mode, her face as impassive as a granite cliff. It was still difficult to control her heart rate, however, and she could see it rise slightly on the monitors. “She was a refugee from one of those mirror universes. As a rebel and assassin, I expect she frequently found herself in one of those agony booths.”
“No longer, I can assure you.” t’Vask said plainly. “Though that technology is something we have been playing with to pleasant effect for quite a while. In fact, your counterpart has enjoyed it more than a few times in those early months.”
“Among other intriguing ways I challenged that iron will of yours, and chipped it away piece by piece.” the icy Administrator said with a smirk. “Perhaps you refuse to believe losing half your command crew in one failed rescue wasn’t enough. But when Commander Rendal destroyed that Artan Bird of Prey with the rest, it was what one might consider… disheartening.”
“This is a very dark timeline indeed...” Enalia muttered, her heart sinking as she realized just how much she had risked on that mission. One tiny thing out of place and everyone but she had ended up dead, it seemed. “And Rendal is still around, plotting her schemes as well, it seems. Working towards the goal of that master of hers.”
"I would not know. Her affairs and mine rarely overlap lest she need to bury someone she needs to have go away for a time." The overconfident administrator let slip as she spoke, catching herself a bit too late and changing course to compensate. “Those… schemes… were relatively far from your mind in short order, anyway. At least the you that is mine.”
Enalia narrowed her eyes just slightly, finally catching on to the woman’s game. If she hadn’t been stressed over the dimensional hops she’d have caught it sooner, but the administrator was using her own vitals as a distraction. The scan data didn’t seem to have anything interesting about the particles that sent her here anyway, so she decided to ignore them and focus on the woman in front of her.
Who was lying about almost everything.
If she had been focussing in the right place, she’d have realized it sooner. “I think you’ve made one thing very clear, Administrator t’Vask. Outside of this facility you have no power or authority and in fact have very little interaction with the outside world. You’ve also told me that Rendal did not destroy the Golden Ghost and that she’s still at large working for her shapeshifter master.”
Now emboldened by the realization that this reality was far more doomed as a whole, Enalia’s countenance grew far more grim. “And that tells me that your Empire, the Federation... Every power in the quadrant may very well be doomed.”
“Interesting suppositions.” t’Vask said without the slightest hint of anything in her expression shifting. “Of course, also meaningless in the greater situation in which you find yourself. For, true or false, my authority here is all you need concern yourself with. And as I see it, I can test what worked on my version of you and see if I can break you in half the time.”
“Then you might as well begin by describing how you broke your version,” the Trill woman added, actually curious as to how it happened at this point. “Or are you going to infer vague threats in the hopes that I cower in fear just knowing that you’ve somehow done it once before?”
That elicited a reaction as the cold woman’s eyes took on a half-lidded expression as she sat back in her chair with her PaDD in her hand. “Would you now expect that I might press this button and activate the modified agonizers in those gauntlets as a reaction to your behavior?”
“Or…” t’Vask pushed a different button that activated 6 smaller windows on the large screen behind them, each showing a different video of the Enalia of this reality being tortured in different, excruciating ways for only an instant before freeze framing. “I could show you some of the ways I broke your counterpart. Agonizers. Isolation. Extreme temperature. Sleep deprivation. Extreme hunger. Conventional torture. In truth, I employed most every technique and, in truth you valiantly struggled through most.”
“Of course, there is more, and as I see it, I have all the time I want to play with you.” She concluded with a grin, “And currently, it might just please me to let you wonder for a time. Let the idea eat at you in a cell someplace that I already HAVE broken you before.”
With that, she pressed a button again on the PaDD and the full screen became a security video of the local Enalia, dressed in a simple, gray one piece jumpsuit, bringing a food tray to t’Vask. Her eyes were hollow and twitchy and her posture was low and hunched over. A broken woman begging for favor from her master like a dog.
Sighing heavily, Captain Telvan glanced at her scan data which was still up and finally she saw it - the particle data as well as the decay rate. At the same time, the electronic code breaker that she had implanted in her wrist when she handed her throne over to Elysius vibrated slightly, indicating it finally cracked the first lock on the shackles on her wrists and clicked it open. It was a security measure that Captain Magnus had insisted on that was enacted a fair bit after the rescue in the timeline, meaning it was an unknown factor to her current captors. Now it just had to deactivate the other shackle and the neural disruption field.
She didn’t want to tip her hand on that just yet though - according to the decay rate, she still had just over ten minutes left here and she’d rather spend it verbally fencing than physically.
“According to your own scans, I’ll be leaving your universe for another soon and there’s nothing you can do about it.” She then nodded to her scan data. “Look at the decay rate of Unknown particle seventeen. That’s the Bulikaya thing that’s doing it. Your scans aren’t detailed enough to tell me how many more hops I have, unfortunately. Or even if I’ll be able to get home. Just that I’ll be jumping again soon.”
Knitting her brows ever so slightly, the aggravated administrator glanced down at the PaDD. In truth, she didn’t quite know how to interpret exactly what the particle readings she was receiving meant, but the lack of any physiological responses in the moment meant that Enalia wasn’t lying.
“Indeed.” Was t’Vask’s reaction, through pursed lips as the woman stood up, brushed the front of her uniform and looked down at Enalia. “Well, then. Let us no longer mince words. It appears I will no longer have the opportunity to do to you what I wish with the time available, so I will have to make due and satisfy myself in… other ways.”
PIcking the PaDD up, she pressed a single button and one of the bookcases to the side made a loud clicking sound and slid aside to reveal a more modern looking weapons locker. But instead of disruptors, it features an assortment of chromed implements of torture from what looked like a dozen different worlds. Klingon bone pullers, andorian ice whips, ancient human finger presses and much more displayed with sadistic love, on display.
In the center, a smaller safe door with a security palm press on it. “I am, above all things, a scientist. My means of discovery are reached through pressing the sentient mind and body to its limits. And yours were as breakable as any other. All it took was a step or two further.”
She pressed her hand on the pad and with a beep, the door hissed open. Cryogenic mists rolled out as a glass tube became illuminated inside. “Your Trill science considers it impossible to separate a symbiont from it’s host without killing said host. It is said to be an act of suicide for a host to allow the symbiont to be removed while both were still healthy.”
“That said, I find the word ‘impossible’ something only small minds are willing to indulge in.” Inside the tube, Enalia knew immediately what she was looking at while t’Vask spoke, her words dripping with venom. In the tube, was her own symbiote. Telvan. “And here, I was so looking forward to seeing if I could keep the host and the creature alive. Pity.”
Standing, Enalia now understood how and why the local version of her was in such a state. For a moment horror and realization spread across her face as she silently rose from the chair and took a few steps forward, her heart rate climbing.
Then the implant in her wrist vibrated a second time and the shackles clicked open the rest of the way, deactivating in the process.
As her scan data vanished from the monitor now behind her, she knew what she had to do and her Queenly countenance returned to her as she slipped out of the binders and wielded them like a blunt weapon, taking the last couple steps to the administrator. Without a second thought, the Trill woman brought the improvised weapon down as hard as she could straight down, caving in the head of the woman before her and locking the look of surprise on her face as grey matter and blood splattered all over the room.
Almost in slow motion, the body crumpled to the floor as the visiting traveler glared down upon the corpse with contempt. Laying in a clump at Enalia’s feet, the body of t’Vask twitched slightly as the woman’s dead eyes rolled back in her head. Breathing slowly and calmly, a cold look on Enalia’s face said that whatever this woman was was beneath her and now she would be the dirt on her soles. It was a look that she had been given many times before by her mother.
Rather than just stopping there though, she returned to the woman’s desk and looked it over for anything she could use to shut this place down in this universe and in her own - this woman had to die in every universe she could kill her in.
Finding a datapad with a report with the prison’s location, command codes, comm codes, even shield frequencies, she quickly memorized them and accessed the comms, quickly sending a message with the woman’s own terminal as it was still logged in to the Captain Magnus of this universe, signing it with her own name.
After deleting the records as best she could, she slowly walked back over to Telvan. The symbiote was in a jar, but she could tell that the sick woman had let the young creature die. Resting one hand on the glass, she could feel the tingle of the particles finally start as she uttered out one last “I’m so sorry...”