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Mutineer's Fate: Agony

episode 102

AGONY



The dim light of the Terran star shone down on the academy grounds. This time of year, the shrike blossoms were in bloom, painting the trim of the black stone courtyard blood red. The freshman cadet units marched about the main field readying the area for the upcoming graduation ceremonies while still other cadets made their way to and from their classes. The Academy band was practicing the school fight song while the even younger cadets from the prep schools were shown about on guided tours. At the very center of the courtyard lay the agony cells, specially set up for the cadet command crew of the Maelstrom. Five glass cells, this day, in each a cadet, stripped down to their basics, writhing and screaming in pain for the rest of the campus to see. In the foremost cell, Cadet Dane, pounded his fists against the glass walls as the spams wracked his body and mind. “I never thought Dane was command material myself,” the head of the Space Academy, Commodore Herthal, punctuated his point with a flippant gesture. “That bul never had the killer instinct in him.” The commodore’s office sat above the Academy grounds with a balcony that overlooked the courtyard as well as the training course just beyond. In his off hand he held a crystal glass filled with an amber liquid that he gently swirled about. Standing with him on the balcony were three others, a scarred caitian lieutenant, holding a data pad in his paws named Ferra, an older officer sporting commanders bars named Barclay and standing just inside the commadores office was a tall dark skinned man in civilian attire. The caitian, Ferra, growled his agreement. “I could smell his weakness. Guess there’s too much of his father in him and not enough of his mother.” Back inside the commandant’s office the civilian snapped, “He’s been in the academy program all his life. If he’s weak, it’s because you didn’t do your jobs training him.” Ferra hissed and bared his fangs. “Well, we will have no problem doing our job today, Dane! We will have no problem at all when we execute him.” The older Dane glared at the caitian for a moment then simply asked, “Why was I called here for this?” The commodore cocked an eyebrow at the man, slightly shocked at his response but only for a moment. “You know why, Dane. Your son has failed out of the program.” “That has nothing to do with me. He’s been in the academy for nearly fifteen years. I upheld my end…” “He won’t be here much longer, Dane,” the commodore swirled his glass. “Won’t be an officer in the fleet, so I don’t see why we should continue to support your little project.” “That wasn’t the deal!” “You…” the commodore took a careful sip of his drink then, “you have another child, yes?” Dane’s eyes grew dark at that. “I have no other children…” “You have…” “…for your academy, Herthal.” Ferra growled, a bit confused by the specifics of their “deal” but, like the commodore, he pressed the civilian. “Your son has failed out, Dane,” and he turned to the commodore. “Why are we waiting?” “We need…” The officer sporting commander’s rank was a brooding man named Barclay. He spoke in a low growl, slow and deliberate. When the others turned to look at him, he calmly laid his hands on the rail and leaned to have a better look at the screaming cadets. “… more engineers.” “We have plenty of engineers!” Ferra hissed. “But only one who is the son of a Dane,” this came just as the outer door to the commodore’s office closed behind him. The denobulan, Captain Taggart, walked in and offered a crisp terran salute which the commadore waived off lazily. “And after we lost last year’s graduating class,” Taggart pointed out. “We are in need of quality talent.” “Dane failed the Kobayashi Maru test!” Ferra hissed. “Everyone…,” Commander Barclay reminded him, not bothering to look in the caitians direction, speaking as if the very act of talking was beneath him. “…fails.” “He was going to let them go, Commander! Need I remind you that if just ONE Maru ever escapes then we’ll never be able to use the test again.” “By the by…” the commadore swirled his glass. “This last test managed to lure a few more of the stragglers from last year’s class. How many are left?” Ferra looked down at his pad. “Just one squads worth unaccounted for now.” “The fleet…,” Barclay stopped as a particularly haggard scream rang out from the agony cells. “… is depleted.” “If they see us show him mercy, we will lose the entire academy not just one class!” Ferra argued. “Not after last year,” Taggart argued. “I’d say last year’s culling has brought us at least a decade’s worth of discipline. And I’ve been tracking the current roster of engineering cadets, Dane is the top candidate.” The commadore looked out over the grounds and swirled his drink before taking another careful sip. “We can always recruit another young Dane…” The older Dane bristled at this but after a warning glance from Taggart he held his tongue. The captain cleared his throat. “Perhaps… a bit of a chance?” “Chance?” the commadore asked. “Yes,” Taggart walked to the balcony and watched the cadets suffer for a moment. “The other cadet… Kolez? He failed his test too, right?” “Not by failing to execute the traitors!” Ferra balked. “No… he wanted to fight the entire Romulan fleet… idiot. It cost us a ship.” Taggart walked back into the office. “Perhaps put them both in the bottom five. Make it a bottom ‘seven’ as it were.” Ferra caught himself before arguing and cocked a furry eyebrow. “To the death?” “I’d think so.” “I… there’s a Klingon and a caitian in the bottom five, you know?” “I am aware.” “That could work,” Ferra hissed with a slight smile. They turned to the commadore, who swirled his drink a bit more. “I doubt Dane could survive that. Fine by me.” The older Dane stepped forward. “And our deal?” The commadore finished his drink. “If your son survives, so does our deal. If not…?” Dane woke with a slight shudder. Not from the pain but from the dream. It had been a long time since he had dreamed that particular dream. If had been years in fact, not since before reaching the fleet academy. Another round of pain lanced through his body and he convulsed about, sliding over the floor of the agony cell in the ichor of the mix of fluids his body released over the previous hours of torture. He coughed and choked from the smell made unbearably worse due to the heat. The noon sun was baking them alive, though, Dane knew, it would not kill them. At least not yet. The round of pain ended, and his body slowly eased down from convulsions to shivers. And despite himself he remembered the dream again. The dream of the last happy day he had ever had. So long ago he wondered if it was something his mind invented. Something he made up to make his miserable life tolerable. “Why?” the weak, hoarse whisper came from the cell next to his. He forced his eyes open to see Cadet Flores… Elisa, lying in the cell next to his, staring at him through half closed eyes. “Wha…” he coughed again and another round of agony pain tore into them. Agony cells were designed to inflict massive amounts of trauma upon their victims’ nervous systems without allowing for the body to adapt. Each round attacked a different cluster of nerve endings, so the bearer of the pain was never able to go numb to it. Never able to grow accustomed to it. Each round of pain was the worst round of pain with no relief in sight. Most cadets, most fleet personnel, only had to endure the cells once before falling in line. This was Dane’s third time in the cell, but it felt like the first. Only when the round of agony stopped and he smacked back down onto the floor of the cell did he realize that he had been trying to stand in his writhing. The trip had been to the beach, with his parents, though he never saw his mother’s face anymore in the dream and could not remember what she looked like when awake. The sun had been so bright and golden. He remembered the feeling of happiness more than anything because he only ever felt that in the dream. Wilat…” her voice crooked and bubbled with bile as she moaned. Dane turned to see the Vulcan female, T’Vrell, lying in a ball on the floor of her agony cell on the other side, “…nam-tor du k'diwa…? In his time at the academy, Dane had seen many Vulcans forced to endure the cells. The staff seemed to delight in any opportunity to watch their logical veneer dissolve away in seconds. As it was their punishment was being observed all over the campus, by faculty and students alike. In a place like the Terran Space Academy, that meant there were many who were enjoying the show. Another round of agony hit them, and Dane passed out, only to have the cell agony follow him into unconsciousness, and torture him in his delirium. The blast of cool sweet air woke her as they opened her cell. Rough gloved hands pulled her out, lifted her and dumped her limp body onto a gurney. Cadet Elisa Flores coughed weakly and opened her eyes. The soft amber lights did little to illuminate the courtyard at night, but she could see the Academy medical staff uniforms. There were finally moving them from their cells after gods knew how long. Cadet Potter was already laying limp across another gurney and Zarva, the bolian was dumped onto one behind her. She watched as they dragged T’Vrell out by her feet, across the courtyard stone and to a gurney farther away. Then they opened Dane’s cell, scanned him but did not pull him out. Someone hit him with a hose, washed out the grated cell floor and closed the door again as he cried out in shock. “What about him?” she heard one of them ask. “Order’s to leave him in there,” another answered. “What is this? A new way to execute them?” “Beats me,” then, “Hey, what are you doing?” Another man walked up and opened the cell briefly. “Cadre wants him alive for the Bottom Bouts.” “We were told to leave him here.” “I’m not taking him out,” the man explained. Elisa knew the agony cell had indeed taken a toll on her this time; she was almost sure they were talking to her classmate, Dane and not about him because his voice was so familiar. “I’m just supposed to make sure he’ll survive the night till the morning.” There was the harsh snap of a hypo-shot followed by a grunt from Dane and finally the slamming shut of the cell hatch. Elisa would have killed for a shot herself, for the chance to sleep without the nightmares that followed a stint in an agony cell. As it was, she had to endure the harsh and jarring ride to the infirmary as the gurney’s wheels rattled over the courtyard stones. At least the night air was cool. But as much as the session in the cell had her reeling, she had heard what the medic had said and now could think of nothing else; Dane wasn’t going to be executed. The son of a bitch who’s cowardice had put her in an agony cell for the better part of two days was going to avoid having his atoms scattered across the stratosphere. Yet… he was bound for the Bottom Bouts, and while Dane had been one tough bastard for the past few years at the academy, she did not give him much of a chance in surviving. Not against the cadets who she knew were already slated for the bouts. She lifted her head with a grunt, trying to get one last look at her cadet captain, still in the cell at the center of the courtyard before they carted her into the med center. After another night in the cells, she thought, he wouldn’t survive one round. And that was fine with her.

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