Author's Note: Thanks to JustTripn for beta.
Vehlen lay propped up on his bed, on top of the luxurious brocade covers, the control device in his hands. He was dressed in a rumpled robe. Sweat beaded on his forehead and his eyes were dark-rimmed. Strong incense wafted lazily from a small burner on his bedside table, not quite covering a more repellent smell – spoiled food, perhaps, for dirty dishes sat piled on a tray on his desk.
She stood at the side of his bed and stared down at him, instinctive professional concern warring with her fury.
“I require care,” he panted.
She just glared at him.
“Are you going to treat me?”
“I suppose if I don’t, you’ll torture me?”
“You broke out of your quarters!”
“Your absence had become conspicuous. For all we knew you were dead.”
He just lay there for a moment, panting. “Sorry to disappoint you.”
“Well, the day is young.”
He blinked up at his bed hangings. “Get me some water.”
She went and got some from the adjoining bathroom and put it on the bedside table, then folded her arms and waited, staring stonily across the room.
He huffed impatiently. “Help me.”
“Help you what?”
“Help me drink!”
“Give me that controller.”
He held it further away from her. “Are you insane?”
She leaned over him and spoke extremely clearly. “Listen to me. You give me the controller, and I will take care of you as best I can. You hang onto it, and use the threat of violence to make me do what you command, and I won’t do a damned thing that you don’t command. So you better know exactly what you need, because that’s all you’re going to get.”
“You will serve your master!” he said hoarsely, and tabbed the control.
She screamed and collapsed as spikes of pain drove themselves down her spine and up into her head. Then she was on the floor next to his bed, trembling and nauseated.
“Serve me!” he said.
Once more she was jerked taut by sheer agony. When it was over, she did throw up. Helpless tears rolled down her face.
“Get up” he gasped.
She spit to clear her mouth and shakily rose to her feet.
“Serve your master.”
She edged around the puddle of vomit on the floor and held the glass of water up to him. Her hand was still trembling and he put his own hand over hers to steady it but that only made it apparent that his was not exactly steady either. Still, it was clear that he still possessed some strength – enough that she thought better of simply lunging and ripping the controller out of his other hand.
His careful swallows appeared painful. The heat coming off him was shocking, and his eyes were glassy. If he were her patient, she would work on cooling him down, ask him about his symptoms, get the scanner, try to make a diagnosis.
But he was her captor, not her patient.
“So, are you dying?” she asked when he was finished drinking. She didn’t bother to sound anything less than hopeful.
He gave her a baleful look. “You’re the doctor.”
“I’m not a doctor, I’m a slave.”
He shifted uncomfortably. “These attacks … are intermittent. From a parasite endemic to the planet where I had made my most recent home…” He trailed off and shifted painfully on the bed. “I just need treatment of the symptoms.” The hand that wasn’t holding the controller tightened over his middle. “But my heart...has suffered some damage. And I suspect there may be a … complicating condition.”
“Is this thing contagious?”
“No.” He gave her an imploring look. “Help me.”
She said nothing, just waited coldly.
“Don’t be so horrible!” he cried.
She folded her arms.
He panted. “We need to reduce my fever.”
His respiration was getting shallower, more rapid; his eyes were practically rolling back in his head. “Please,” he gasped.
She waited, half-expecting another round of pain but willing to risk it.
He muttered something in a language she didn’t recognize. She eyed the controller. One well-timed lunge and she’d have it. The only problem was that he might then grab her, if he had the strength left. If she simply waited, it was quite possible he’d just pass out. Of course, there was also the risk he’d have a seizure and set the thing off without being able to stop it again.
“Fine, take it!” he said, suddenly, and shocked her by handing it over.
She took it from him gingerly and stared down at it. Now what? She wanted nothing more than to shut this thing down forever, but she didn’t even know how to do that.
“Perhaps you should give that to us,” T’Pol’s voice said.
Kendra jumped and looked over at the doorway. Tucker and T’Pol were making their way into the room. Kendra swallowed and wondered how much they had seen. It wasn’t anything she’d particularly want a medical board to have witnessed.
Vehlen began to laugh bitterly. “Don’t forget, we had a deal!” He laughed again before lapsing into another tongue, presumably Romulan.
“What is the matter with him?” T’Pol asked. She took the controller from Kendra and handed it to Tucker, who immediately walked over to Vehlen’s desk and started searching for tools.
“High fever,” Kendra said. “I’m not sure what else. Apparently it’s a recurrence of something.”
“Is it contagious?”
“He says not. Do you see his scanner over there?” she asked Tucker.
He stopped in his search and gave her a disbelieving look.
“I promised I’d help him if he gave me the controller,” she said.
Tucker turned to T’Pol, clearly expecting her to be the voice of reason.
“I can’t just leave a man to die,” Kendra said, though the truth was that she could fairly easily be talked into doing just that in this particular case.
T’Pol went over to the Vehlen’s desk and found the scanner after a brief search. She brought it over. “Do you know how to use it?”
“He helped me use it on Commander Tucker the other night,” she said, and began to scan. She frowned and handed it to T’Pol. “Can you read any of this?”
T’Pol’s eyes narrowed. “What makes you think I would be able to?”
“Maybe because Romulans look like Vulcans?” Kendra said.
Tucker looked over.
T’Pol’s voice stiffened. “Surely his behavior makes it clear the two species are quite different?”
“From where I’m standing you don’t look like two different species at all,” Kendra said. “More like two different ethno-groups of the same species.” She scanned T’Pol. “Assuming I’m right that this is your pulse and yours is normal, his is quite elevated. It’s up in this green area up here. And there’s something flashing here that looks important, but I don’t know what it means.”
“Ancient Vulcan uses a similar ideograph for the concept disorganization,” T’Pol said grudgingly.
Kendra bit her lip. Was it ridiculous that she felt guilty for promising to help Vehlen when she was rapidly realizing she didn’t have a clue how to treat him?
She went into the adjacent bathroom and found a washcloth, which she doused with water and wiped across Vehlen’s head and neck. He appeared to be half-conscious at best. She opened his robe and moved down his chest, in the process making interesting discoveries. “He’s been stabbed a couple of times … he has a fairly significant high-energy burn scar here … and … look – I think this is a recent surgical scar.”
“Over his heart,” T’Pol said.
Kendra tried to use the scanner to get a look at the heart rhythm but soon grew frustrated and simply put her ear down over what would have been the stomach on a human. “It’s not very regular at all.”
“Atrial fibrillation is a common symptom of high fever in Vulcans,” T’Pol said.
“I’d like to set up an IV. He must be dehydrated.” She looked around helplessly. “Don’t suppose you’ve noticed a sickbay anywhere?”
Tucker came over and gave T’Pol the remains of the disassembled controller. He motioned at the device on T’Pol’s neck.
“Perhaps we should first concentrate on determining our location,” T’Pol told him. “We should head for Earth as soon as possible.”
At this, Vehlen stirred. “You mustn’t!” he said, his voice hoarse.
T’Pol drew herself up. “Mr. Vehlen, in accordance with Starfleet regulation 148 paragraph 16, I hereby confiscate this vessel and declare you a prisoner of Starfleet on the basis of extreme criminal behavior – specifically, the torture and enslavement of Starfleet personnel. Any statements you make may be used against you in a court of law. If you wish to return to Earth with us to face charges, you may obtain legal counsel, or it will be appointed for you.”
Tucker looked at her like she was nuts and Vehlen also seemed perplexed. “Three Birds of Prey!” he gasped.
“In higher orbit. If you move, they’ll be on us. You’ll be captured. I’ll be dead.” He glared at Kendra. “Sooner than otherwise.”
Tucker and T’Pol exchanged glances. “Why haven’t they detected us?” T’Pol asked.
“We’re cloaked,” Vehlen said. “But my cloak is rudimentary. We’re also in the shadow of a large orbital satellite.”
“We’ll proceed with caution for now,” T’Pol said to Tucker, who nodded.
“No transmissions!” Vehlen said. “No scans!”
Tucker frowned and gave T’Pol a look that clearly communicated his skepticism.
“Our priorities should be to determine ship status, secure any weapons or controllers we can find, attempt to verify the prisoner’s claims, and then move on from there,” T’Pol said. She turned to Kendra. “We must secure him as well.”
“Why don’t we install one of these things in his neck,” Kendra said, scowling down at her patient, who looked away.
T’Pol said, “Perhaps the tie on his robe, if we can’t find something more appropriate.” She began a search.
“I still need to treat him,” Kendra said.
“The Commander and I cannot leave you alone with him if he is not secure,” T’Pol said.
“Fine,” Kendra said. “Just let me know if you see anything that looks like an IV while you’re at it.” She turned to Vehlen. “Do you know what I’m talking about? Do you have medical supplies stowed somewhere?”
He ignored her, so she pulled out the top drawer of his bedside table. Her eyebrows went up, and she pulled out a pair of metal handcuffs. They appeared to be the genuine antique. A key hung off them. “Commander, would this do?” she asked, and held them up.
Tucker and T’Pol exchanged raised eyebrows of their own. Vehlen saw what she was holding up and flushed.
T’Pol tested the cuffs and decided they would prove effective, then tested the strength of the bed frame. “If you please,” she said to the prisoner, who reluctantly raised his hands.
“And you said it would be humiliating to force yourself on a slave,” Kendra muttered.
Vehlen glared at her, his mouth set in a grim line.
She went back into the drawer with some trepidation, but didn’t come up with anything more damning than a bottle of something that was sexual lubricant for all she knew, plus some data pads of unknown provenance. Given the other contents of the drawer, she wasn’t terribly keen on opening any of the programs, so she handed them over to T’Pol.
“Come on, Vehlen,” she said. “No hypospray? No medicines at all?”
“Nothing,” he said, his face turned away.
“With all the resources you have at your disposal?”
“My last doctor attempted to take my supplies with him when he left. They were vaporized along with him.” He scowled. “He didn’t have my permission to leave.”
Kendra exchanged a glance with T’Pol.
Tucker made an odd “Ah” sound – Kendra figured it was the nearest he could come to saying “T’Pol” – and they turned around to find him holding up a weapon.
“Excellent,” T’Pol said. “Doctor, we will leave you to your patient for now.”
Then they were alone again. Kendra sighed and said, “Well, I guess we’d better try to get some more liquid into you the only way we can. Sit up, it will spill less.”
He pushed himself upright with more strength than she’d expected and took the water she brought to his lips. He stared away from her, across the room, and obediently took swallow after swallow. Finally, he slumped back and she put the glass away.
She dampened the towel in the bathroom and began to sponge him down again.
“I wouldn’t use them on anyone who didn’t want me to,” he said.
“What?” Kendra said, confused.
He shook his arms impatiently, rattling the cuffs against the frame.
This was certainly not something she wanted to discuss with him. “Look, I really don’t need to know anything about that.”
“I picked them up on Earth.”
Damn. She did want to know more about that. “Where on Earth?”
“San Francisco. Interesting place.” He smirked.
“That’s where you lived?”
He frowned and closed his eyes. “That feels good,” he said, ignoring her question.
“You must have lived there for awhile, to be as fluent as you are.”
“Long enough to seek a little companionship.” He opened his eyes again and stared back at her, jutting his chin defiantly. “I found that certain Human sexual practices were ideal for maintaining my cover. Though I have to admit some of them had an appeal that went quite beyond practical considerations.” He lowered his voice. “Have you ever let a man tie you up for the sheer pleasure of being under his control?”
Kendra drew back with a disgusted frown. “Your companions didn’t think it was strange that a Vulcan wanted to tie them up?”
“Vulcan?” he said derisively. “A Vulcan would have been far too conspicuous in my position.”
“You tried to pass as human?” She continued sponging him, trying to keep her tone conversational, trying to keep the information coming.
“I didn’t try. I succeeded. Brilliantly.”
“Nobody noticed the ears? The skin tone? The forehead?”
“Oh, I made the requisite attempts at disguise, but it was hardly necessary. Humans notice what they want to notice, what they expect to notice. Willful blindness is one your species’ most notable traits. There were several times when I should have been exposed, yet was not.”
“So how long were you there?”
“Too long. I understood your planet quite well by the time I left, but I had become dangerously uninformed about my own.”
She went to rinse the cloth and returned. “What kind of information were you gathering?”
He regarded her. “It doesn’t matter now. It’s too late to do anything about it.”
“What do you mean?”
“My people,” he said softly, “are about to attack yours, if they haven’t already. And I very much doubt your people can avoid defeat.”
She stared down at him, her hand arrested in the air. A single drop of water fell from the cloth and splashed onto his chest.
He gave her a crooked smirk. “It’s ironic, really. Were it not for my current issues with the Empire, you would probably be much safer as my slave than you would be serving anywhere in Starfleet. But as it is…” He shrugged. “You’re probably screwed either way.”
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