Read Mosaic Online

Authors: Jeri Taylor

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Science Fiction

Mosaic (26 page)

of our sensors."

"I most certainly am not. And it leads me to believe that

this "scientific' expedition of yours is really a military

operation for gathering intelligence."

"Forgive me, Gul Camet, but your statement has a touch of

paranoia to it." He smiled, but it was without mirth. "You

may be right. We are a society which has always distrusted

outsiders.

Unfortunately, that has always proven a necessity." He

gestured toward the physician, who had finished cleaning

and dressing her head injury.

"Please show the ensign one of our implants."

The physician reached into his satchel and lifted out a

round, flat device that was smaller than a communicator and

constructed of what looked like a skinlike polymer. Gul

Camet took it and held it out, inspecting it. "It's a

remarkable device. Implanted anywhere in your body, it can

receive commands from me which produce a level of pain

which can only be called astonishing."

Kathryn slowed her breathing, trying not to show her fear.

"How foolish," she said. "You must realize that one will

say anything under torture. It's a ridiculous method of

getting information."

"Of course it is. That is not the purpose of our

techniques.", is the purpose?"

"Power. Control. The satisfaction of completely breaking

the will of another being."

Kathryn felt an icy chill. She knew he was telling the

truth, that once he began to inflict pain there would be no

stopping it, there would be no confession, no outpouring of

information that would make him stop. She was doomed.

"I regret that you have chosen to be so uncooperative. I

would have preferred to treat you as our guest, with

comfortable quarters and abundant food." He shrugged, a

delicate gesture that bespoke genuine disappointment. "But

as it is . .

."

The door opened once more and two guards entered.

Gul Camet nodded toward her and the guards approached her,

took her by both arms, and jerked her roughly to her feet,

hurrying her toward the door so quickly she was trotting to

keep from stumbling.

Down the long corridor they ran, Kathryn struggling to

keep her footing, but inevitably losing it and falling to

her knees, at which point one of the guards kicked her

savagely in the thigh, a sharp, painful blow that made her

cry out involuntarily. She scrambled to her feet as quickly

as she could and they resumed their headlong race, out of

the corridor and into the stone courtyard she had exited a

short time ago. The guards now flung her to the ground; she

got to her hands and knees and tried to rise, when one of

them ripped off the bandage the physician had just put on

her head wound and then drove his fist viciously into the

injury. It spurted blood which ran into her eye, blinding

her on one side. Then she felt herself shoved toward the

opening into the box, the pen, the cage, she had so

recently exited.

When the door was slammed behind her, the dark and the

quiet were a welcome haven from the guards'

cruelty. But she knew that sanctuary would be fleeting.

She lay curled on the ground, freezing, knowing the cold

earth was draining more of her body heat from her than was

wise, but too tired to do otherwise. She had spent several

hours on her hands and knees, then sitting, trying to let

as little of her body come in contact with the ground as

possible.

But the effort was too great, and she was exhausted.

She had to get some sleep. Her head had finally stopped

bleeding after she kept her palm on the wound for half an

hour, and had crusted over once more. But it ached with a

dull, throbbing pain. She tried to isolate the pain in her

mind, wrap it up, toss it out, and she succeeded in

reducing its impact. She felt a drowsiness come on her; if

she could sleep for a while she could recoup some of her

strength, and then she could concentrate on how to get out

of this predicamept.

Tlien the screaming started.

She bolte rl upright. cracking her head on the ceiling as

she did so. Someone very close by was screaming horribly.

She realizeij he must be in the stone courtyard just

outside. The sound was ghastly, a throat-rending shriek of

unendurable agony, and Kathryn instinctively shrank back

against the far wall of the little cubicle, as though

moving half a meter would get her away from the horrible

sound.

She put her fingers in her ears and began to sing: the

first tune that came, unbidden, to her lips was a lullaby

her mother had sung to her when she was small.

"Kathryn klein, ging allein, in die weite welt hinein . . .

but and stock stelat ihr gut, ist ganz wohlgemut . . . aber

mutter weinet sehr, sie hat keine Kathryn mehr .

. . Kathryn klein, ging allein, in die weite welt hinein .

. . his The words, she remembered, were about a little girl

who put on a hat and took a walking stick and set off into

the wide world alone. Her mother was sad that she was

going, but knew that her daughter had to make her own way.

Kathryn sang it loudly, then even more loudly, and was

finally yelling it, over and over, trying to create a balm

that would shut out the horrendous sounds of a man

undergoing torture.

It was quite a while before it occurred to her that the

screams she was listening to were those of Admiral Paris.

By that time she was somewhat numbed to the horror of what

she was hearing. She had been able to disconnect her mind

from the reality of the situation and objectify it; the

shrieks took on a surreal quality that made listening to

them a curious, hallucinatory experience that was, if not

wholly tolerable, a bit less horrendous.

were they trying to get information from him? Surely the

admiral would realize that withholding it was empty

heroism. No, Gul Camet had made it clear what he was after:

the domination and destruction of the spirit. And Janeway

had no doubt that he would achieve it-first with the

admiral, and then with her.

How could she prepare for this ordeal? were there any

mental exercises that might help her endure it?

Was quick capitulation the answer? She thought not-it would

be distrusted. Gradually she realized that nothing could

help her escape nightmarish cruelty, and with this

inevitability, she felt her stomach clench with fear.

Now the screaming subsided, evolving into a series of low

moans which weren't comforting, but which perhaps indicated

that whoever was torturing the admiral had, for the moment,

stopped. Did that mean they were coming for her'? She drew

great tortured gulps of air. Suddenly she was aware of a

tiny sound behind her. She shifted awkwardly in the cramped

space and turned to see a small glowing dot appear in what

was the back wall of the pen-a dot that traveled swiftly

down from ceiling to floor.

Was this the beginning of some form of torture? were they

going to bake her in this metal box? She drew more deep

breaths, striving for calm, fighting fear, yet feeling

utterly vulnerable in this dark, cramped space.

And then there was a ripping noise and she felt arms reach

in and grab her, hauling her roughly through the back wall,

now bent outward. She gasped and started to cry out

involuntarily, but a gloved hand was clamped firmly over

her mouth. She felt herself dragged along over rough

terrain, the sudden intake of fresh cold air telling her

she was now outside.

She tried to get her footing, but it was impossible;

whoever had her in his firm grip was too strong, and too

fast. Afraid of twisting an ankle if she kept trying, she

finally relaxed and allowed herself to be dragged. Then she

was hauled upright and jammed up against what felt like a

large tree. A faint glow of starlight provided some

illumination, and Kathryn realized she was indeed outside,

held in the grasp of a man dressed entirely in black, hand

still pressing on her mouth. Then his mouth came close to

her ear, and a voice whispered to her-a voice that sounded

strangely familiar: "Be quiet. Understand?" She nodded, and

the gloved hand came away from her mouth. She was aware of

a lean, hard body pressed against hers, the mouth still

near her ear. "Wait here. Don't make any noise. Be ready to

run when I get back." And then she realized it was Justin

Tighe. She nodded and he released her; she felt him moving

away from her, was vaguely aware of other dark shapes

moving with him, back in the direction from which they'd

come. And then she understood: these were the Rangers, the

elite commando corps Admiral Paris had spoken of.

Her partner, the intimidating Lieutenant Tighe, was one of

them!

They had rescued her, and now they must be going back for

the admiral. That would be a far more dangerous feat, she

realized, involving combat with the Cardassians, who would

then be alerted to their escape and would marshal all their

forces to capture them all.

She began looking around her, trying to divine the plan,

wanting to be ready for anything. She seemed to be in a

dense woods that was damp and uncomfortably cold. Somewhere

nearby she could hear water, a sound between a drip and a

gurgle; she couldn't identify it.

Her eyes were adjusting to the darkness, and she could

distinguish individual trees. She knew she could see well

enough to run through these woods. And the sounds she now

heard indicated she'd have to do just that. Voices, calling

out, yelling, the sound of phaser fire-the Rangers had

engaged the Cardassians. Did that mean they had Admiral

Paris? Or had they been attacked before they ever reached

him?

She was disconcerted to realize that the sounds of the

skirmish were moving away from her. What did that mean? Was

she being abandoned? Did the Rangers have a transport site

somewhere? Could she find it if she were left alone? She

struggled against panic. This was at least a situation in

which she could function: she could take action, she could

make choices, she could do something. As the sounds of the

voices receded yet farther from her, she stepped away from

the tree.

And was immediately slammed inffby a man whose approach

she had not heard at all.

"I told you to stay put," he hissed, grabbing at her arm

and starting her in motion through the trees.

"Now move!"

She broke into a run behind him; he wove his way through

the trees, zigging and zagging in what seemed like a

planned pattern. Her breath grew ragged; she realized

fatigue, hunger, and thirst had all taken their toll on

her. She ignored the burning of her lungs and kept running.

And suddenly stumbled onto a dark form on the ground and

went sprawling. She realized it was Justin she had fallen

over; he was curled on the ground clutching at his ankle.

She crawled toward him and saw his face was grimacing in

pain.

"My ankle . . ." he rasped. She realized he was lying just

beyond a large root that poked up from the ground; he had

caught his foot on it, and now it was twisted at a

grotesquely unnatural angle: it was broken. "Keep going,"

he ordered.

"Transport site . . . thirty meters ahead . . . clearing .

. .

"Why can't they beam us from here?"

"Transgenic field . . . have to get to site .

. . stop asking questions . . ."

Kathryn heard voices behind them, drawing nearer.

The Cardassians were right behind them. There was another

sound, too-an unearthly howling from several bestial

throats.

"Go, was he said, in a tone that brooked no questioning.

"Those are Toskanar dogs-they'll tear you to pieces."

But Kathryn had another idea. She had discovered the

source of the water sound she had heard earlier-a marshy

swamp a few meters away, surrounded by reedy growth.

Grabbing one of Justin's arms, she dug her feet into the

ground and began pulling him toward the marsh. "Get out of

here," he protested. "You have to make it to the transport

site before they reach us."

"Stop giving me orders, Lieutenant. This time you'll have

to listen to me." He was lean, but well-muscled, and in her

weakened condition she struggled to drag him. He helped as

best he could by propelling himself with his other arm, and

in this 200

way they lurched the several meters toward the marsh.

She pulled him into it behind her, then released him to

snap off two of the reeds that grew along the bank.

"We're going under," she announced, giving him a hollow

reed and then pulling him far enough into the mud that they

could fully submerge. She could hear the voices of the

Cardassians and the eerie wailing of the Toskanar dogs;

they weren't far behind now.

She put the reed into her mouth and saw Justin do the

same; she lay backward in the mud and forced herself under

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