Act One

Scene 1
Scene 3


Act Two

Act Three

Act Four

Act Five

author's note

Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama

Rated: PG-13, bordering on R … harsh language, action, brutality, and adult situations.

Summary: In the Mirror Universe, the war with the Romulans nears a close and sides must be chosen...

Disclaimer: I own nada.

I'd be remiss if I failed to thank the people over at the Brunette Jolene boards for giving me astounding assistance throughout the creative process.

The revised look of the Endeavour was originally developed by Mark Ward for the NX Class Mod Pack for Bridge Commander, although it was credited as the NCC-05 Atlantis. Mr. Ward has graciously given me permission to use this “skin” for the look of Endeavour – if I had discovered this thing before writing Vigrid, the -06 would have looked like this all along.

This is a Mirror Universe fic that begins at around the same point as Endeavour: Medea. It'll be a little difficult to follow without reading that first. Like my previous fics, I'm writing this as prose and using the basic screenplay format (Teaser + 5 acts)

Act one

Lieutenant Commander T'Pol was dying.

Her every muscle trembled as the need washed through her. Pain pulsed through her body with each beat of her heart, and she clutched the already sodden sheets closer, as if that could help. She bit her lip to prevent from howling, and could taste blood. Every nerve ending seemed to be on fire, and only one thing could assuage the agony.

Trellium D.

A cool human hand touched her forehead, and T'Pol heard a voice that was vaguely familiar to her. At any other time, she would have been able to identify the voice, but with the desperate need for trellium robbing her of sentient thought, she was simply glad to be able to recognize the gender of the male speaking. A second male answered the first one, and she recognized Charles Tucker's voice at once. He was her savior and her destroyer. She hated him. She loved him. She hated and loved him.

The hiss of a hypospray at her neck seemed to send a torrent of ice into her veins, and T'Pol shuddered as a diluted trellium solution entered her body. Almost at once, she could feel the withdrawal symptoms begin to diminish, and control slowly begin to return. She drew in a shuddering breath, coughing as she tasted blood.

"How much longer?" Tucker was asking, his tone furious. T'Pol shivered with arousal at the effect his voice had on her; it was the drug that was responsible, of course. She wouldn't be aroused by him otherwise. Except when he was angry. Or annoyed. Or perhaps...

"I told you it would take some time to break this addiction, Captain," the other male voice answered, interrupting her rapidly degenerating train of thought. She focused on the words, used them to claw her way back to sentience. "The Empress' agents were quite efficient."

Fury pulsed within T'Pol at those words, as fractured memories flooded into her mind's eye. Sato's laugh seemed to mock her, and T'Pol could still remember the emotional tidal wave that the initial overdose of trellium had caused. The logic behind Sato's actions was terrifyingly astute: by making T'Pol dependent on the empress for continued trellium injections, Sato would have established control over her Vulcan rival. Day after day, the trellium had been applied, and, day after day, T'Pol had felt her sanity slowly slipping away.

"T'Pol, can you hear me?" Tucker's voice was close to her, and the sensation of his breath upon her ear send another wave of arousal through her. The fledgling control that she had gathered shattered as his wonderful scent filled her nostrils. She wanted to wrap herself around him, wanted to kiss him until he had no breath left. The memory of his hands upon her face, upon her ears, upon her breasts caused her to tremble, and she smiled lazily.

The impact of his hand across her face snapped her out of her addled memories, and T'Pol's combat-honed instincts sent her into a rolling spin away from the source of the unexpected assault. Her legs buckled the instant she tried to stand, and she nearly fell. Tucker caught her, and she glared at him.

"Are you with us again?" he growled, and T'Pol ripped her arm free from his grasp. She clutched the biobed quickly to prevent falling and gave the room a quick look. It was a human medical facility, she realized. Aboard a starship.

"Where am I?" she demanded, frowning in recognition of the other male. Arik Soong's reputation was, to say the least, a dark one, and she could vaguely recall seeing him at least once during her imprisonment.

"Aboard Endeavour," Tucker replied sharply. He was wearing captain's rank, T'Pol realized, and she wondered whether he deserved congratulations or condolences. "You've been here for a week," he continued, and T'Pol frowned at his words. She had no recollection of coming aboard this vessel, though her memory was currently shot through with holes. Her confusion must have been on her face as Tucker expounded. "I arranged it," he said, crossing his arms and glowering at her. She was surprised at how effective his glare was.

"Should I thank you?" she snapped peevishly. "Or damn you?" Her head was still swimming, and T'Pol closed her eyes to fight the vertigo.

"I'm already damned, so I don't care either way," Tucker replied, his tone so indifferent that she had to open her eyes to look at him. "Doctor Soong is gonna help you break this trellium habit," he stated grimly, and T'Pol grit her teeth at the implication that Tucker was making decisions for her now. It meant something, but she didn't know what. "I need the competent officer that you were before you went muckin' about in the Defiant's computers an' lost your edge," he almost snarled. She blinked in surprise at the anger in his voice, and wondered if he had read his alternate's file as well.

"Why?" she asked, and Tucker gave her an incredulous look before shaking his head.

"In case you forgot," he growled, leaning forward over the biobed to put his face within centimeters of hers, "there's a war goin' on." T'Pol swallowed as his overwhelming scent once more assaulted her olfactory nerves. She hated that he could do this to her. "You're gonna be my second so I need you thinkin' straight," Tucker stated, and her eyes widened in surprise at that. It seemed inconceivable that Sato would trust her with such a position, given her previous affiliations. Tucker straightened, and fixed the silent Soong with an angry glare. "Get that damned drug out of her system, Soong." He said nothing else as he turned and departed the medical facility.

Eyes wide, she watched him leave. To her horror, T'Pol could feel his emotions dwindling as he put distance between them. It could only mean one thing, and she closed her eyes tightly to fight the terror that it sent through her. Her hands trembled as she clutched the biobed to steady herself, and the sensation of being observed sent a shiver up her spine. Soong was watching her, she realized.

"How long?" she asked as she opened her eyes and pinned the doctor with a heated look. He gave her a mocking smile.

"You've been in the Empress' less than kind care for nearly three years," Soong replied, and T'Pol felt her stomach clench in anger. Glancing down to hide her emotions, she drew in a sharp breath as she took in the appearance of her body. Her once trim figure was now almost skeletal, a victim of three years of constant abuse, and her weakened muscles trembled nearly constantly. Disgust swelled within her, and she fought against the urge to weep as she felt the need for trellium slowly begin gathering strength once more.

"The recovery program is going to be difficult," the doctor announced as he tossed a PADD onto the biobed in front of her. "We'll be slowly weaning you from trellium over the next three weeks," he continued in a bored tone. T'Pol reached for the data device, but paused as she caught sight of her reflection on a wall mirror. The despair and fury began swirling in her stomach as she stared at the stranger who looked back.

"Are you listening?" Soong demanded testily, and T'Pol looked away from the broken woman in the mirror.

"Yes," she replied simply. "Three weeks is too long," she declared. "Can it be reduced?"

"It'll be painful," the doctor pointed out, a wry smile on his face. "Very painful, but I think we can break the physical addiction within two weeks."

T'Pol nodded as she dragged herself back onto the biobed. Soong, she noticed, made no attempt to assist her. It was for the best, she decided. There was a great deal of work to do if she was to become self-sufficient once more, and she would not be broken again.

Never again.


He had never expected this.

Nursing a glass of bourbon, Charles Tucker leaned back in his chair, immensely grateful for the opportunity to simply relax. It was a particularly comfortable seat, and had once been the command chair aboard a Vissian light cruiser. When Endeavour destroyed that ship for daring to smuggle weapons to members of the resistance, Lieutenant Commander Hess had managed to salvage the chair for Tucker's personal quarters. In the year since he had had it installed, Tucker had come to favor it over even the one on the bridge, and did his best thinking while sitting in it.

And he was doing a lot of thinking at the moment.

The lights in his cabin were deactivated, but there was enough ambient illumination from the streaking stars for him to see T'Pol. Asleep, she was curled up in a tight ball atop his bed, and it was immediately obvious that her dreams were anything but soothing. Her knees were drawn up to her chest, and she hugged them with both arms in a purely defensive posture that seemed intended to protect her more vulnerable spots. At intermittent intervals, she twitched or made distressed sounds in her sleep, and Tucker could see that her eyes were darting around underneath her eyelids.

He should have been happy at how miserable she was, but he wasn't. He should have been planning how he would get his revenge upon her for how callously she used and discarded him, but he wasn't. He should have been doing a lot of things ...

Feeling pity was not one of them.

Since her delivery to Endeavour nearly a week earlier, Tucker had been growing steadily more disgusted and infuriated with how she had been treated by Sato. Old and much newer, half-healed scars decorated the Vulcan's body, and T'Pol's once glorious physique was a shattered wreck. He doubted that she weighed more than thirty-five kilograms now, and the tremors that constantly wracked her body were difficult to watch. Even her eyes were different; where once before he had seen hidden passion and anger, now all he could see was muted terror.

Empress Sato had thoroughly broken her.

The discontent with the Empire that had been growing in him since even before Defiant swelled to new heights, and Charles swallowed his bourbon without actually tasting it. His eyes never left the body of the sleeping Vulcan. For three years, he had served Sato without hesitation, helping her crush the resistance and break the backs of the nobles who had run the Empire. The things that he had done in order to get T'Pol back would have caused the old Charles Tucker to quail in horror, yet the captain that he had become barely cared. On his orders, fission bombs and photonic torpedoes had been fired upon civilians. By his command, thousands of helpless victims had died in a maelstrom of atomic fire.

All in the name of an empress whom he hated.

His plan had been simple: assemble a crew loyal only to him and flee the Empire to parts unknown. He would take T'Pol with him to make her pay for what she had done to him, and would never again return to the world he no longer considered his own. According to the database that he had illicitly copied from Defiant, his alternate had commanded the Endeavour during their war with the Romulans, so it had made sense in a morbid way for him to be the captain of the same ship in this universe.

Assembling a crew that wouldn't turn on him wasn't easy, though, and, once again, he turned to the files stolen from the Defiant's computer for the names of people that his alternate had trusted. It was like reading a fairy tale about people that he knew, but had lived totally different lives. There was Heinrich Eisler, an ex-MACO who had died shortly after the second Xindi campaign under mysterious circumstances, or Anna Hess, whose career ended in tragedy after Galorndon Core. Or Daniel Hsiao and Marie Devereux, two officers who survived the war, married, divorced and married again. Or Colin Mackenzie, who disappeared from historical records prior to Cheron. People he could trust ... or at least, people he hoped he could trust. Some of them had proven to be disappointments in that regard.

All of that went out the window when the Romulans attacked.

They had swept out of the Delphic Expanse in response to pleas for aid from their distant cousins on Vulcan. In three days, the Terran Starfleet lost more ships than had been destroyed in the entire rebellion, and the angry human populace rallied behind Hoshi Sato, the warrior-empress who commanded a devastatingly powerful warship. Entire worlds burned, and the Romulans were steadily forced back into the Expanse, unable to combat the Empire's tenacious aggression and overwhelming numbers.

A plaintive whine emerged from the unconscious Vulcan on his bed as she fought against her nightmares, and Tucker frowned darkly. The scar that covered half of his face began to itch, and he pressed the half-empty glass of bourbon against it as he stared silently at T'Pol. Cold fury simmered in his stomach at what had been done to her, and he wondered at the anger, unable to fathom exactly why her abuse enraged him so. After all, hadn't he planned to do worse? How many had died because she had tried to destroy Defiant? How many loyal soldiers of the Empire had perished because she had been a traitor? Good men, like Captain Forrest or Admiral Black, had lost their lives because of her.

He brightened slightly when he reflected that Archer had died too. At least some good had come out of her betrayal.

Why the hell do I care? Tucker asked himself. He had been musing over that question since the empress had finally turned T'Pol over to him. By all rights, he should have waited until the bitch was conscious and aware before blowing her out of the nearest airlock. She was a traitor who wouldn't hesitate to stab him in the back, or screw with his head. The Vulcan had been nothing but trouble since even before the "favor" he'd done for her, no matter how unbelievably fantastic the sex had been. And yet, like a damned fool, he had kept coming back for more, no matter how many times she treated him like dirt.

He emptied the glass, and reached for the nearby bottle to refill it.

Inevitably, his eyes returned to the sleeping Vulcan, and Tucker exhaled in frustration. It would be weeks before she could begin serving as the executive officer, perhaps even months. Soong had been grim regarding T'Pol's current situation: weaning her off of the trellium would be time consuming, and if there was one thing they didn't have, it was time. With the Romulans now on the defensive, Starfleet would be taking the war into the Expanse and conducting reprisal raids against the aliens who had assisted them. The Xindi, for example, or the Illyrians. Such a campaign would be long and brutal, with a limited chance of survival and even lower odds of success. With T'Pol finally aboard, Tucker suspected that Hoshi would appoint him to spearhead the campaign, no doubt hoping that he would die in the attempt.

It was ironic, Charles mused as he drained the glass and set aside, that he wanted T'Pol back on her feet so she could help him survive the coming conflict when she had made it abundantly clear that she didn't care if he lived or died. How the hell could he trust her after what she did to him?

"You're a goddamned fool," he muttered to himself angrily, as he watched her begin trembling once again. Only a fool would want to protect the woman who had raped his mind and tried to have him killed. Only a fool would hope that she would forgive the depradations inflicted upon her or her people by his fellow humans.

Only a fool could hope that she would love him like the other T'Pol had loved her Charles Tucker.

He reached for the bourbon.


The smell of bourbon was on his breath.

With a soft gasp, Lieutenant Commander T'Pol snapped awake, her muscles tensing as the distinctive stench assaulted her olfactory nerves, and, for one horrifying second, she was back in her cell, shackled, drugged and unable to resist as the latest of Sato's guards enjoyed himself. Her heart thudded wildly, and she struggled against the warm weight that rested against her back. It gave way with a grunt, and rolled away, muttering something that she did not comprehend. The voice, however, she recognized at once.


Glancing around, T'Pol studied the cabin with wide eyes, chastising herself for her lack of control. It was to be expected though; three years of constant trellium exposure had ravaged her neural pathways to the point that, on some days, it was all she could do to keep from sobbing as the violent emotions that were the legacy of all Vulcans swept through her. Hugging her knees to her chest, T'Pol focused on her whitespace, and desperately tried to push aside her fear.

Anger washed through her then, hot and fast as it temporarily burned away the terror that had become her constant companion. Hate was counterproductive, she tried to remind herself, but the realization of how far she had fallen only fueled her rage. In that moment, there was nothing more that T'Pol wanted than to see the scourge of humanity wiped from the universe. They were a disease, a blight on the galaxy that grew more bloated and fearsome with each passing day. Their existence was absolute proof that no benevolent creator figure could possibly exist, for what sort of monster would unleash humanity upon the rest of the universe?

The sound of Tucker's gentle snoring drew her attention, reminding her that not all of them were abhorrent monsters, and she pushed herself out of the bed that they shared. Her muscles were still atrophied from lack of use, and the resulting weakness caused her to stumble as she crossed the short distance to the oversized chair that dominated the cabin. Her legs cramped, but she perservered and lowered herself into the cushioned seat. The sight of the stars streaking by drew her attention to the viewport, and T'Pol felt an unfamiliar surge of emotion rush through her as one word leaped to mind: free.

It wasn't entirely accurate, of course. She was still beholden to Tucker, though his intentions remained mystifyingly obtuse. When the captain transferred her to his cabin, she had been terrified that he expected her to serve as a sexual partner. Even now, T'Pol acknowledged that, in her current state, Tucker could easily overpower her and take her by force if he so wished. That he evidently had no such desires made him infinitely better than the guards whom Sato had delighted in assigning to T'Pol. The Vulcan shuddered, and tried to push her memories aside. They were in the past, and could not hurt her anymore. She was free.

"You're awake," Tucker's gravelly voice sent a jolt through her, and T'Pol jerked her head up, realizing at once that she had drawn her knees up to her chest once more. She met his eyes, and swallowed at the lack of warmth in them. Once, she would have known what he was thinking merely by looking at him, but he had changed in three years. He was harder, colder, and far more dangerous than she ever thought possible.

"I am," she replied softly, her eyes tracking him as he rolled out of bed. His chest had more scars on it than she remembered, and was more defined as well. Tucker grunted as he crossed his arms and studied her.

"Thought you'd need me to slap you to wake up from the trance," he commented, and T'Pol shook her head slightly in response. She had not expected him to know about a healing trance, but he had surprised her once again. Not for the first time, she regretted underestimating this man. She vowed not to do so again.

"It is not always the case," she revealed, unsure of how much to tell him.

"Did it help?" Tucker asked, his expression impossible to read. The trance had been the reason that he gave to her for transferring her to his quarters; he knew how exposed she would be while in sickbay, and, more than anyone else aboard Endeavour, he knew how vindictive Hoshi Sato could be.

"Somewhat," T'Pol answered cryptically. She didn't want to tell him that it had been incredibly difficult to reach the proper meditative state, or that too many of her neural pathways had been damaged for such a healing trance to be very effective. If anything, she felt even more discouraged than when Soong had outlined the initial treatment regimen. The damage that Sato had done with the trellium was appalling.

"Somewhat," he repeated. A scowl crossed his face. "That doesn't sound very encouraging." He reached back and depressed a button on an unfamiliar device. "Chamomile tea. Hot." T'Pol raised an eyebrow as a panel slid open on the console, revealing a steaming mug. To her further surprise, he offered it to her, before crouching before the chair. He was still nearly a meter distant, and T'Pol couldn't decide if he was too close or too far away.

"Thank you," she whispered as she sipped the tea. It had been a very long time since she had consumed anything that did not stink or taste of mold, urine, or feces, and the joy that accompanied the wondrous taste was difficult to suppress. Free, her mind exulted wildly. She could still feel his eyes on her, and recognized that he was waiting for more information. "The trellium damage is substantial, Captain," T'Pol stated, unable to make eye contact with him.

"I shoulda killed that fuckin' bitch," Tucker snarled under his breath, glancing away as he did. Fury that was not hers pushed against her fragile mental control, and T'Pol winced slightly. She closed her eyes against the onslaught of human emotion, and wondered how he would react when he learned that they were bonded. It had been unintentional, of course, and would likely be traced directly to her lessened control when they had mated the first time. She had been exposed to a virus that confused her body, convincing it that her bonded mate was entering pon farr, and, unwilling to mate with a repulsive Denobulan, she had sought out the only individual aboard Enterprise who she found attractive or discreet; he had, after all, told no one when he learned what she had done to Koss or why she had been forced to leave her home. Tucker had been surprised when she showed up at his cabin in such an excited state, then eager, and T'Pol had been able to forget, if only for a few hours, that she was a second-class citizen in an Empire of Man.

"I need you," her mate declared, and T'Pol's eyes snapped open. His expression soured slightly, even as some emotion that she did not recognize flickered behind his eyes. "We're heading toward the Delphic Expanse," he growled. "Part of Taskforce Victory, or some such shit. It's a reprisal raid against the Xindi for supportin' the Romulans, and I need you as my exec before we get there."

"Why?" The question rolled out of her mouth before she could stop it, and T'Pol raised both eyebrows at the bitter snort of laughter that emerged from the captain.

"Because you need me as much as I need you," Tucker replied grimly. She drew in a startled breath, wondering if he had learned of the bond somehow. There had been no reference to it in Defiant's computer that she had seen, but it could have been there. "When she had you delivered to Endeavour," he continued, "Sato announced that you had cooperated with the Empire against the resistance." His expression was sad, almost guilty. "Your mother officially disowned you before disappearin' into the Forge," Tucker revealed.

"I cannot go home," T'Pol realized aloud. Tears prickled her eyes, and she was suddenly angry at her lack of control. Sato would pay for this, she decided as she blinked the moisture away.

"Neither of us can," he grunted before standing. He towered over her, but she felt no fear. Whether he knew it or not, Charles Tucker would not harm her. "Sato hates the both of us," he pointed out, "so we need to work together if we're gonna survive." T'Pol blinked at the logical manner in which he offered an alliance.

"Agreed," she said simply, and the tension that seemed to be riding his shoulders eased slightly. It did not disappear entirely, but the change was obvious.

"I've already talked to Major Eisler," Tucker said, and T'Pol raised an eyebrow at the name, "And he'll arrange a bodyguard for you when you're not here." The implication that they would continue to share a bed was obvious, but T'Pol did not comment. Here, in the captain's quarters, she knew that she was safe from the wrath of those who would hate her. She wondered, though, how many other members of his staff were this universe's version of those who had served under Tucker's alternate.

"What level of access do I have?" she asked, and the captain gave her a long, searching look. Though he said nothing, she presumed he was wondering if she would attempt to destroy the ship. Finally, he spoke.

"Unlimited. Computer!" A chirp sounded in response to his voice. "Command authorize: T'Pol. Grade: commander. Position: executive officer. Effective immediately. Command End." The computer beeped again.

"You are putting a great deal of trust in me," T'Pol stated, and he glowered.

"I've got no choice," was his bitter reply. He pressed his tongue up against his cheek, and she could almost feel his thoughts racing. Abruptly, he leaned toward her, invading her personal space and putting his face within centimeters of hers. "And before you start thinkin' about screwin' with my head again, this cabin is monitored twenty-four/seven." Anger caused his eyes to flash. "The two guards that are outside have explicit orders to shoot to kill if you try to meld with me again. Am I clear?" The emotion that coursed through her had a taste that was distinctly his, and, in that moment, she realized much he feared telepathy.

"Yes," T'Pol replied calmly. He straightened, and studied her for another long moment. She met his eyes and did not blink. Finally, he nodded.

"Good." He turned toward the entrance to the bathroom. "And don't get too comfortable in that chair, darlin'. It belongs to me." T'Pol made no reply as she watched him disappear through the doorway. The feel of his emotions slowly dwindled, and she drew in a steadying breath. Telling him about the bond would have to wait, she decided. His fear of telepathy was too great, and he would likely react poorly. There would be time later, once she had regained some of the trust that she had abused. Satisfied and strangely hopeful, she leaned back into the oddly comfortable chair. Instinctively, she drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her legs.

When Tucker emerged from the shower, she was once again asleep.


He had been asleep when the summons came.

Standing with his back to the wall, Master Chief Petty Officer Colin Mackenzie schooled his features to stoicism. It was a difficult thing to do, appearing callously uninterested or even bored while a man was tortured to death mere meters away, but Mackenzie had nearly perfected the skill. Serving under "Black Jack" Stiles on the Challenger for six years had given him a strong stomach.

"Confess," Major Eisler growled to the crewman currently trapped within the agony booth. Wearing the distinctive black uniform of MACO Special Projects, Eisler was a terrifying vision of unrelenting purpose that immediately brought to mind the Inquisition. The major's face was impassive, as if set in stone, and literally could not form an expression of delight. Captured by Andorian separatists eight years earlier while on a covert operation, the major had been tortured by an expert utilizing a neural scourge. The nerves that allowed the human face to smile had been savaged, leaving behind an inhuman mask of flesh.

Not that Eisler ever smiled anyway.

"Confess," the major repeated as he paced in front of the agony booth. His eyes were cold and dead as they bored in Mackenzie's, and the COB knew without a doubt that the words had been meant more for him than the poor unfortunate bastard currently screaming for his mother.

"What exactly is Crewman Wu supposed to be confessing?" Mackenzie asked, and Eisler's eyes narrowed fractionally. The MACO did not get angry – Colin didn't think he'd ever seen the major get angry – but there was no doubt that Eisler was unamused.

"He was apprehended attempting to break into the captain's cabin," the major stated coldly.

"Ah," Colin said. He smiled because he could. And because Eisler couldn't. "Wu is an inkmonkey," he pointed out, using the MACO slur for the personnel in the Administration division aboard Endeavour. "What was he going to do? Paper cut the captain to death?"

"The captain's quarters are off limits," Eisler rumbled, his voice low and sinister. It was an effort for Mackenzie to keep from swallowing the lump that abruptly appeared in his throat, but he could not let the major know that he was intimidated. "And your crewman isn't smart enough to try something on his own." The implication was unmistakable: the major suspected that Colin had links to this latest attempt on Tucker's life.

"Call me," Mackenzie replied, still smiling, " When you have something resembling proof."

He swept out of the armoury, and strode purposefully toward his cabin. If he walked a little more quickly than normal, then that was to be expected. Once he was safe in his quarters, Mackenzie sealed the door and activated the anti-surveillance devices that were littered around the cabin. Another long moment passed as he swept for additional bugs that may have escaped notice. Once satisfied, he collapsed into the desk chair and powered up his systerm.

"You have one chance for survival," the image of Major Eisler was saying, and Colin smiled tightly. He had been worried that the device he had planted would not function. The resolution of the pict-image was poor, but sharp enough for him to make out the specifics. His good mood vanished as he took in how close to breaking Wu was.

"Who ordered you to break into the captain's quarters?" Eisler demanded. He was prowling in front of the agony booth, hands clasped behind his back. "Was it Mackenzie?"

In response, Wu began screaming again, and Mackenzie looked away from the image in discomfort. He was no stranger to death, but this ... this was inhuman. His eyes narrowing, the MACO major gestured sharply to the tech operating the agony booth; instantly, the young woman dialed down the pain emitters, and Wu's screams dwindled away to nothing. Gasping for breath, the crewman slumped forward, still conscious but in horrible pain.

"Do you know what this is?" Eisler asked softly. He pulled an articulated metal gauntlet from an average-looking box. Each digit ended with a long, needle-like spike, but it otherwise looked as if it could have come from a suit of archaic plate mail. "This is an Andorian neural scourge," the major continued matter-of-factly as he pulled the heavy gauntlet onto his right hand. "It's an object intended for one purpose: acquiring truth." He stepped close to the agony booth. "With this device, I can directly stimulate the truth centers of your brain. You will not be able to lie. It is quite ... painful. In the hands of an expert, it can result in an eternity of pain that never ends." Eisler nodded once more to the technician operating the booth, and the clear plexiglass shield slid open, allowing the major access to Wu. "Now," the MACO growled, "Who ordered you to break into the captain's quarters?"

A stricken look crossed Wu's face as Eisler loomed forward. The crewman's jaw worked for a moment, and he shivered abruptly. A muted pop sounded, and Wu slumped forward, blood already trickling from his eyes.

"Scheisse!" Eisler snapped, frustration stamped on his face. As the infuriated major whirled toward the tech, Mackenzie deactivated the image feed, and allowed himself to smile. He had been worried that the conditioning would not hold, that Wu would actually break, but Soong's work had been, as always, masterful. Under the most stringent examination, it would appear that Wu had suffered from an unfortunate but entirely natural stroke.

His smiled vanished almost instantly, and was replaced by a fierce scowl. Wu's failure set back the timetable even more, and Mackenzie glowered darkly at the now blank monitor. He shouldn't have been surprised at how quickly Eisler's commandos pounced upon the crewman, but he had hoped that Wu would have at least been able to plant the applicator on the keypad. It would have worked beautifully: Tucker would have been exposed to the contaminated trellium, and then once he came into contact with the Vulcan whore, the drug would have sent her into an insane rage. Such a pity that it hadn't worked...

Mackenzie's eyes drifted of their own accord to the picture of Allison Li that he kept on his desk, and his fury flared once more. She would still be alive if it hadn't been for Tucker, and Colin couldn't forgive the captain for that. It didn't matter if Ally shouldn't have been on the space station when Endeavour fired upon it, or that Tucker had tried to deal with the traitors on Vigrid Station without resorting to violence. It didn't matter that Li had defected to the rebels. All that mattered was who gave the order to open fire.

A chirp from his systerm broke into his dark musings, and Mackenzie activated it with a flick of his wrist. He blinked in surprise at the image that appeared; he had expected it to be Soong comming him to inform him that Wu had died.

"Sir," he said quickly while straightening in his seat.

"Report," came the harsh command.

"Wu failed," Mackenzie revealed quickly. "He's dead, and didn't link me to it." Colin struggled to keep his anger under control, but wasn't that successful. "I'll need some more time, sir. Tucker is well protected." That was an understatement; Mackenzie still hadn't figured out how the captain had earned Eisler's loyalty, but whatever it was he had done, it had turned the major into something akin to a fanatical follower. Colin seriously suspected that the major would jump out of an airlock if Tucker so ordered.

"You'll have the time. Our plans here have been delayed. Keep me informed." With a wry smirk, Colonel Malcolm Reed of Internal Security continued. "Long live the Empire," he said.

"Long live the Empire," Mackenzie repeated, even as the screen went blank. Leaning back in his chair, he began to think.

He had a murder to plan.

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